Newcastle fans urged to keep on protesting by Saudi activist

‘It is their duty’: Newcastle fans are urged by a Saudi activist to keep on protesting against their new owners

  • A Saudi activist has called on Newcastle fans to protest against their ownership
  • She has told Newcastle fans it is ‘their duty’ to use their voice on Saudi regime 
  • Her sister was released from prison last year following her vocal Saudi activism 

A Saudi Arabian activist whose sister was imprisoned and tortured for campaigning for women’s right to drive has urged football fans to protest about the brutality of the kingdom’s rulers.

Crystal Palace fans displayed a banner in their game against Newcastle last weekend criticising the Saudi regime and their takeover at the North-East club.

‘It is their duty,’ says Lina al-Hathloul, who has lived in exile for 10 years in Belgium and says she has never felt less safe than now. ‘Absolutely I would encourage fans to research the regime and realise that MBS [Saudi ruler, Mohammed bin Salman] controls their club.

‘Otherwise they are legitimising a regime that has been absolutely toxic, and has been forbidden from much international engagement for years after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.’ 

British businesswoman Amanda Staveley, the public face of the takeover, has said that MBS has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which owns 80 per cent of Newcastle. 

Newcastle fans have been called on to protest against the brutality of Saudi Arabia’s rulers 

Newcastle were sold to a consortium made up of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)

Newcastle were sold to a consortium made up of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)

However, Al-Hathloul says that Newcastle’s hierarchy, not least Staveley, have misled fans about who really controls the club. 

Upon completing the takeover Staveley was adamant to the BBC that the PIF and the Saudi state are two separate entities having been pressed on concerns given Crown Prince MBS chairs PIF and several Saudi ministers sit on its board. 

‘No, not at all. Absolutely not,’ Staveley said when asked if the Saudi state would have a role in decision-making at Newcastle. ‘Our partner is not the Saudi state, our partner is PIF.

‘PIF is autonomous and independent of the Saudi government. PIF owns Newcastle, not the Saudi state.’ 

Al-Hathloul says it is obvious that control ultimately lies with MBS, accused of atrocities including using a group of assassins known as the Tiger Squad to carry out extrajudicial killings of critics and enemies.

‘But they [Newcastle] have been misleading regarding the PIF and MBS’s involvement in managing the PIF. They have said the Saudi kingdom is not linked to the PIF and MBS has nothing to do with it.  

‘Maybe that’s why fans are turning a blind eye, and accepting the takeover.

‘If it was clear that MBS has taken over the club [himself], I don’t think the fans would be so happy about it.

‘Now it’s like everyone is trying to forget about it. Newcastle was the big first step for MBS to come back into the international sphere and it’s dangerous. So of course I encourage the Newcastle fans to protest and point out the crimes that he is committing.’ 

Amanda Staveley (right) is fronting the Public Investment Fund's ownership of Newcastle

Amanda Staveley (right) is fronting the Public Investment Fund’s ownership of Newcastle

Al-Hathloul’s sister, Loujain, has been a women’s rights activist since 2014 and was imprisoned for driving a car before it was made legal in Saudi Arabia in 2018. While in prison, Lina says: ‘Loujain was beaten, electrocuted, waterboarded and force-fed. She was sexually harassed, and threatened with murder and rape. Because she is an activist.’

Loujain was released from prison this year but is bound by rules that prevent her travelling abroad and forbid her from talking about her situation.

‘I used to feel safe but now it feels like the Saudi regime’s efforts to silence dissidents and critics has never been so intense,’ Lina says. ‘I’ve never felt so threatened. My family and friends have also been targeted… my family also have a travel ban.’