Homepolitics News

    Explained: Sportswashing and why Saudis' bid for Newcastle is being opposed

    Explained: Sportswashing and why Saudis' bid for Newcastle is being opposed

    Explained: Sportswashing and why Saudis' bid for Newcastle is being opposed
    Profile image

    By CNBC-TV18  IST (Updated)

    Mini

    Back in 1973, the legendary Pink Floyd had a couple of verses on their track Money that went, New car, caviar, four star daydream/Think I'll buy me a football team. Some of the world’s richest took those lines to heart. Teams of prestige, not exclusive to football, have been the plaything of the most affluent for a long time, but of late they have been upstaged by nation states.

    Back in 1973, the legendary Pink Floyd had a couple of verses on their track Money that went, New car, caviar, four star daydream/Think I'll buy me a football team. Some of the world’s richest seemed to take those lines to heart. Teams of prestige, not exclusive to football, have been the plaything of the most affluent, but of late they have been upstaged by nation states.
    The latest to join the ranks of the Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Russia appears to be the Saudi Arabian regime. A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, is on the verge of acquiring Premier League outfit Newcastle United.
    If the Saudi Arabia-Newcastle United deal goes through, it would become the latest example of sportswashing.
    What is sportswashing?
    Amnesty International defines sportswashing as a corrupt and authoritarian regime’s takeover of a sports team of repute in a bid to whitewash its image to an international audience.
    Are there other examples of sportswashing?
    Plenty. The Abu Dhabi regime’s ownership of the reigning Premier League champions Manchester City often draws the ire of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with the oil-rich emirate’s deployment of iron fist against any dissent at home. Its involvement in the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen has the hallmarks of war crimes, according to the United Nations.
    The Qatari regime, which owns Paris-Saint Germain in the French league, has been widely deplored for working foreign labourers in extremely inhospitable conditions and with scant regard for labour laws as they build shiny new stadia for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
    Gazprom, the state-owned Russian oil behemoth, has its footprint across the football landscape sponsoring UEFA, the governing body of Eurpoean football as well as German outfit Gazprom. Greenpeace activists often deface Gazprom’s advertising at stadiums to express their disapproval of their trade practices.
    These are just a few in a long list that includes the likes of Bahrain and Azerbaijan, among others.
    How will Saudi Arabian ownership of Newcastle United be an example of sportswashing?
    Saudi Arabia is effectively ruled by crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who also goes by the acronym MBS. MBS drew the world’s consternation at the ghastly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul 2018. His body has not been recovered.
    MBS also takes the iron fist approach to domestic rule, jailing dissenters, including members of the ruling family. He is also the architect of the Yemen war which has ravaged the country since 2015, killing more than a 100,000 in battle. But more depressingly, the resultant starvation has killed about 85,000 children and pushed more than 15 million people—about half the country’s population—to the brink of starvation.
    Aren't there checks to prevent unfit people from owing prestigious clubs?
    The Premier League has a fit and proper test to assess the “fitness” of an owner before they take over a club. However, it has proven to be ineffective thus far and is unlikely to stop the Saudi regime in its attempt to take the ownership of Newcastle United.
    Amnesty UK’s director Kate Allen recently wrote to the Premier League CEO, warning about the impact of Saudi Arabian ownership in the prestigious league in no uncertain terms.
    “So long as these questions
    The Saudi bid could also be undermined by a pirate broadcast service that originates from its lands. It was one of the less covered aspects of the Saudi Arabia-led political boycott of Qatar. BeoutQ began as a service that pirates beIN’s exclusive programming for free and disseminated to a swathe of audience.
    The Premier League’s “Owners’ and Directors’ Test” prohibits digital piracy but Saudi Arabia denies having to do anything with beOutQ despite Qatar’s protestations. So there's that.
    Is Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing campaign a new thing?
    The Saudi Arabian regime has been on bit of a roll when it comes to bringing sports to its shore as it attempts to open its borders to potential tourists.
    Over the last couple of years, the country has hosted a high-profile world heavyweight bout, a golf tournament, and a WWE event, with a slew of events on the cards. The potential Newcastle United ownership will help drive its positive branding into people’s living rooms without them travelling to the West Asian kingdom.
    Newcastle United is one of the best-supported clubs in England, with a committed fan base. It’s ownership will be a significant addition to Saudi Arabia’s PR arsenal.
    Check out our in-depth Market Coverage, Business News & get real-time Stock Market Updates on CNBC-TV18. Also, Watch our channels CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz and CNBC Bajar Live on-the-go!
    arrow down

      Most Read

      Market Movers

      View All
      CompanyPriceChng%Chng