Newcastle United have asked fans celebrating the club’s Saudi-backed takeover not to wear Arab-style clothing for matches in case it causes offence to others.
Dozens of supporters donned home-made head-dresses for the Public Investment Fund’s first game in charge against Tottenham at St James’ Park on Sunday, creating a spectacle that dismayed anti-racism group Kick It Out and influential FA figures.
And now the Tyneside club themselves have urged fans to not don the home-made keffiyehs for future games.
A club statement said: ‘Newcastle United is kindly asking supporters to refrain from wearing traditional Arabic clothing or Middle East-inspired head coverings at matches if they would not ordinarily wear such attire.
‘A number of supporters have recently attended St James’ Park wearing associated head coverings and robes, marking the takeover of the club by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.
Newcastle ask fans not to wear Arab-style clothing for matches in case it causes offence
‘No-one among the new ownership group was in any way offended by the attire of the fans who chose to celebrate in this way. It was a gesture that was acknowledged as positive and welcoming in its intent.
‘However, there remains the possibility that dressing this way is culturally inappropriate and risks causing offence to others.
‘All visitors to the club are, as always, encouraged to wear whatever is the norm for their own culture or religion, continuing to reflect the broad and rich multicultural communities and groups from which the club proudly draws its support.’
Pictures of fans wearing the home-made head-dresses saw Kick It Out urge supporters to ditch the ‘culturally insensitive’ Saudi Arabia ‘fancy dress’ shortly after their 3-2 defeat by Tottenham at the weekend.
Magpies supporters have been making the gesture to celebrate the new Saudi-led ownership
Fans young and old wear Arab-style head coverings and robes before last Sunday’s game
Kick It Out spent Monday collating reports of anti-discriminatory behaviour from the weekend’s fixtures as they do every Monday, before contacting the club about the issue.
Sportsmail has learned the equality and inclusion group are likely to offer education workshops in Newcastle to fans to explain how wearing tea towels in an attempt to impersonate Arabs could be considered racist, offensive, or culturally insensitive.
The sight of many members of the Toon Army wearing tea towels was particularly jarring as it took place at the Premier League’s No Room for Racism campaign, which will run over the next fortnight with fans being asked to challenge and report any incidents of discrimination.
The issue of cultural appropriation has become a major talking point in UK sport this season.
Premiership rugby club Wasps called for a nationwide ban on the wearing of Native American headdresses by Exeter Chiefs fans earlier this month.
Anti-racism group Kick It Out want the club to educate fans; pictured is Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, head of PIF – Newcastle’s new ownership group
Exeter are refusing to drop the Chiefs moniker despite major American franchises undergoing rebrands, including the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians.
While Newcastle got the new regime off to a losing start, there has been a party atmosphere on Tyneside following the completion of the £305million takeover, which has ended Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign as owner.
However, questions over the Saudi regime’s poor human rights record has followed the takeover closely, with the deal deemed highly controversial as a result.
Saudi Arabia’s influence on the sporting world has been growing in the past few years, after it watched neighbours Qatar win the hosting rights for next year’s World Cup.
Critics have, however, repeatedly accused the Saudis of ‘sportswashing’ – spending huge money on hosting sporting events in a bid to boost the country’s reputation despite its poor record on human rights.
Saudi Arabia have a history of poor human rights which has clouded this takeover deal
Before the Newcastle takeover bid was sealed earlier this month, Saudi Arabia has spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events, according to report from human rights organisation Grant Liberty.
That includes hosting Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight boxing world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019 as well as a European Tour golf tournament featuring many of the game’s biggest names – the Saudi International – and the Dakar Rally.
The Saudis also hosted a Formula One Grand Prix this year for the first time earlier this year.
The Premier League initially failed to approve the Newcastle takeover bid due to concerns over the links between the fund and the Saudi state, which had the deal gone through would effectively have meant that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the owner of the club.
The buying consortium insisted that the PIF was separate from the state and, as revealed by Sportsmail, Bin Salman was so enraged that he warned the Prime Minister on June 27 last year that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless the buyout was approved.
A ‘Justice for Jamal Khashoggi’ banner was seen outside Newcastle’s first game under new ownership against Spurs on Sunday
Bin Salman reportedly approved and probably ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, according to a US intelligence report earlier this year.
A ‘Justice for Khashoggi’ banner was seen outside St James’ Park ahead of Sunday’s clash with Spurs.
However, the takeover bid went through after the Gulf state settled its piracy dispute with Premier League broadcast partner beIN Sports, while the Premier League also received assurances that Saudi Arabia would not be controlling Newcastle.