Police are investigating after a section of Crystal Palace fans unveiled a banner that attacked the Saudi owners of Newcastle United in the two teams’ Premier League clash on Saturday.
Ahead of the 1-1 draw, where relegation-threatened Newcastle earned their fourth point of the season, a supporters’ group for the home team took aim at the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Premier League’s fit and proper owners test.
Despite allegations of human rights abuses in the Kingdom, and the alleged involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who ultimately heads the PIF, the consortium was still allowed to purchase a majority 80% stake in Newcastle as part of a £305 million ($420 million) takeover deal.
The banner in question contained a cartoon image about to behead a Newcastle United magpie as faceless fans sang “We’ve got our club back” in the background.
Crystal Palace fans have unveiled a banner protesting Newcastle’s Saudi takeover 👏 pic.twitter.com/SAgVEv8JYj
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) October 23, 2021
Simultaneously, the item also boasted a checklist of subjects with ticks next to them including terrorism, beheadings, civil rights abuse, murder, persecution and censorship.
Furthermore, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters was depicted with his thumbs up to a big bag of money.
Explaining their action before kick-off in a statement, the Holmesdale Fanatics accused the English top fight of choosing “money over morals” while doing business “with one of the world’s most bloody and repressive regimes”.
“To give the thumbs up to the deal at a time when the Premier League is promoting the women’s game and inclusive initiatives such as rainbow armbands shows the total hypocrisy at play,” it added.
“Newcastle, as a team, is now being used to sportswash the blood from the hands of a corrupt governance and deluded supporters should consider that reality when singing of ‘getting their club back’. We are lucky to live in a country where we can display a banner such as this without repercussion. Many in Saudi Arabia wish they were afforded those.”
— Holmesdale Fanatics (@ultrascpfc) October 23, 2021
Later, however, Croydon Metropolitan Police confirmed on Twitter that they received “a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans”.
“Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously,” it added.
On Saturday 23 October police received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans. Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.
— Croydon MPS (@MPSCroydon) October 23, 2021
The Holmesdale Fanatics weren’t the only part of the Palace faithful to voice opposition to their opponent’s new owners, however.
Proud and Palace, the Selhurst Park outfit’s official LGBTQ supporters group, uploaded a video to their social media account highlighting the Saudi imprisonment of Suhail al-Jameel.
“We want to pick up the baton started by our counterparts at Spurs, [the] LGBT group Proud Lilywhites, by raising awareness of Suhail al-Jameel. Suhail is in prison in Saudi Arabia for three years for being gay,” explained a spokeswoman.
“He is a 23-year-old man who has been subjected to 800 lashes as part of his punishment. We don’t believe these owners have a place in the Premier League and we want to keep raising awareness.”
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Up north in Yorkshire, Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear questioned why the PIF’s takeover was allowed to go ahead in notes published in his club’s matchday program before a 1-1 home draw with Wolves.
“The media and public have been left debating why the Premier League owners/directors test is harder to fail than GCSE PE, but now our real focus should be on how the new owners of Newcastle embrace the values of equality, diversity and inclusion that are core to every club’s membership of the greatest league in the world,” wrote Kinnear.
“Simultaneously, there is an opportunity for all clubs to participate in a long overdue review of the rules that ensure the financial and commercial fair play that are central to keeping our league competitive and attractive.
“After the bitter schisms within the league caused by Project Big Picture and the European Super League, we have at least found an issue which unites at least 18 clubs,” Kinnear concluded, in a possible reference to an emergency meeting that was reportedly requested by Newcastle’s “angry” rivals with league officials regarding the takeover.
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