Ant and Dec join Newcastle fans at St James’ Park for first match after £300m takeover

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Newcastle United fans are paying tribute to the club’s new Saudi owners by covering their heads in dish cloths following the club’s takeover – but activists are also protesting outside the team’s grounds over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.   

Scores of fans were seen to be in high spirits with many wearing outfits referencing the Premier League’s richest owners following the £300million takeover. 

Some were seen sporting black and white striped gowns and Newcastle United scarves covering their heads. 

But before the 4.30pm kick off against Tottenham, protesters were spotted outside the 52,000-seater St James’ Park stadium amid strong opposition to the takeover over Saudi human rights abuses and the killing of journalist Mr Khashoggi in 2018.   

van was spotted driving around the ground with an image of Khashoggi and Mohammed bin Salman – the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The message on the side vehicle read: ‘Jamal Khashoggi… Murdered 2.10.18’

A fan of Newcastle United wearing traditional Saudi head dress and draped in a Saudi Arabia flag following the ownership takeover by a the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund

A fan of Newcastle United wearing traditional Saudi head dress and draped in a Saudi Arabia flag following the ownership takeover by a the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund

Fans of Newcastle outside the stadium before the English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur

Fans of Newcastle outside the stadium before the English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur

TV stars And and Dec were among the thousands of Newcastle United supporters cheering on the Toon Army as they ushered in a new era under Saudi ownership

TV stars And and Dec were among the thousands of Newcastle United supporters cheering on the Toon Army as they ushered in a new era under Saudi ownership

A Newcastle fan is pictured above as opinion remains divided on whether the Saudi takeover of the club will be beneficial

A Newcastle fan is pictured above as opinion remains divided on whether the Saudi takeover of the club will be beneficial 

Twitter account @NUFCLC uploaded an image of fans with the caption 'No idea who he is but he said UP THE NEWCASTLE'

Twitter account @NUFCLC uploaded an image of fans with the caption ‘No idea who he is but he said UP THE NEWCASTLE’ 

Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan with part owner Amanda Staveley in the stands before the match

Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan with part owner Amanda Staveley in the stands before the match

Fans head to St Jame's Park football stadium ahead of their game against Tottenham Hotspur and their first game after Newcastle United's takeover on October 17

Fans head to St Jame’s Park football stadium ahead of their game against Tottenham Hotspur and their first game after Newcastle United’s takeover on October 17

There has been strong opposition since the £300million takeover due to human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. 

A van was spotted driving around the ground with an image of Khashoggi and Mohammed bin Salman – the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

The message on the side vehicle read: ‘Jamal Khashoggi… Murdered 2.10.18’.      

Newcastle is launching a new era amid accusations that the club’s capture by a consortium in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has an 80 per cent stake is a ‘sportswashing’ exercise designed to deflect attention from the Middle East nation’s human rights record despite assurances of separation between PIF and the state.

Amnesty International UK’s CEO Sacha Deshmukh said agency: ‘Whatever the result on Sunday, we wish Newcastle fans and their team well, but we remain deeply concerned about how our football clubs are being used for sportswashing.

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‘Football clubs being purchased for the purpose of trying to distract from serious human rights violations isn’t confined to Newcastle, and sportswashing isn’t confined to football – but the Saudi takeover has obviously brought the issue of human rights and football governance into sharp relief.

Newcastle United fans head to St James' Park football stadium ahead of the match against Tottenham Hotspur and the first game following the club's takeover on October 17, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle United fans head to St James’ Park football stadium ahead of the match against Tottenham Hotspur and the first game following the club’s takeover on October 17, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne

A Saudi Arabian-backed £300m takeover of Newcastle United has been completed after the Premier League approved a takeover after receiving assurances that the Saudi state would not control the club

A Saudi Arabian-backed £300m takeover of Newcastle United has been completed after the Premier League approved a takeover after receiving assurances that the Saudi state would not control the club

Fans of Newcastle United celebrate their side's first goal scored by Callum Wilson of Newcastle United

Fans of Newcastle United celebrate their side’s first goal scored by Callum Wilson of Newcastle United

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On social media, the view of the takeover was much less enthusiastic, with some users blasting the 'appalling human rights record' of Saudi Arabia

On social media, the view of the takeover was much less enthusiastic, with some users blasting the ‘appalling human rights record’ of Saudi Arabia

‘Despite assurances about a supposed separation from the Saudi state, ownership of St James’ Park is now very much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his government.’

Asked if he was to remain in post how comfortable he would be with those human rights issues, Bruce said: ‘Look, as far as I’m concerned, I’m sure people will look into that. That’s for politicians and all the rest of it to decide on that.

Premier League match between Newcastle and Tottenham is halted while medics help perform CPR on fan who collapsed in the stand 

Newcastle United fans attract the attention of the officials to a medical emergency in the stands

Newcastle United fans attract the attention of the officials to a medical emergency in the stands

The Premier League match between Newcastle and Tottenham was paused and players left the field after a supporter required medical treatment on Sunday.

It was Tottenham player Eric Dier who was alert to the emergency and indicated a defibrillator was required. 

The players initially waited by the side of the St. James’ Park pitch before leaving for the dressing room.

Seven minutes stoppage time had been indicated.

‘There is a medical emergency in the East Stand,’ the stadium announcer said before later telling the crowd: ‘The players will be coming out to resume the first half. 

‘There are 7 minutes left to play’

‘It’s a great thing for the club of Newcastle and for me, the city too. I’ve seen the transformation in Manchester – not just for the football club, but for the city too – and I hope for the area and for the people and the supporters that there are exciting times ahead.’

Steve Bruce is taking charge of his 1,000th game as a manager as the Magpies host Tottenham, but is widely expected to be replaced following the takeover of the club.

Bruce took charge of his boyhood club in 2019, but was given little opportunity to refresh the squad under former owner Mike Ashley, while also taking much of the blame for a lack of progress on the pitch.

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‘It’s been tough,’ Alex Bruce told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily Podcast.

‘I wouldn’t sit here and lie and say it hasn’t, it’s been really tough to watch the criticism.

‘Since he took the job, I think the lack of respect that has been shown, considering he’s done 1,000 games, has been unbelievable.’

A Saudi Arabian-backed group completed their takeover of the club on October 7, sparking immediate speculation Bruce – who has guided Newcastle to 13th and 12th-placed finishes – would be replaced after a winless start to the campaign.

Links with Rangers boss Steven Gerrard, ex-Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and former Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre continue, but Bruce remains in post for now.

Despite being a boyhood fan himself, Bruce has never been a popular appointment among the St James’ Park faithful, with Alex Bruce saying his father had always faced an uphill battle.

‘He knew that was going to be the case from the day he took the job,’ he said.

‘He had an owner who was trying to sell the club, he had an owner who didn’t really want to put any money of his own into the club for a number of reasons, he could only use the money that the club generated and with the pandemic there wasn’t any money there.

‘He tried to strengthen the squad in the last window. They desperately needed reinforcements in defensive areas, I think he was very frustrated he couldn’t do that, so there’s been a number of things that have made the job difficult.

‘He has been the fall guy. The amount of times I’ve said to him, ‘Why don’t you let someone else do the press?’ And he just says, ‘Because I’m the manager, it’s my responsibility’.’

Alex Bruce argued that his father’s record compared fairly well alongside Rafa Benitez’s achievement of 10th and 13th-placed finishes, questioning why the two men are regarded differently.

‘Dad’s finished round about similar and yet one’s been lauded as a messiah and the other one’s been battered since the moment he walked in the door, which has been the most difficult thing for me to watch because he’s a Geordie,’ he said. 

How murderous Saudi regime linked to Newcastle United lured in critic Jamal Khashoggi before hit squad chopped him up inside Istanbul consulate and dumped body parts in suitcases

Last moments: Khashoggi was last seen on October 2, 2018, entering the consulate in Istanbul where he was accosted and killed by alleged Saudi agents

Last moments: Khashoggi was last seen on October 2, 2018, entering the consulate in Istanbul where he was accosted and killed by alleged Saudi agents 

Jamal Khashoggi made his fateful trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

He had gone to the consulate to pick up paperwork relating to his upcoming marriage, but once inside he was confronted and killed by Saudi operatives.

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Khashoggi had once been close to the Saudi royal family but before his death had written critical pieces in the Washington Post about Mohammed bin Salman and his policies. Various international agencies would later accuse the prince of ordering the murder.

The crown prince came under worldwide suspicion over Khashoggi’s death and a UN investigator’s report in 2019 said there was credible evidence of his involvement.

Khashoggi’s killers described him as ‘an animal to be sacrificed’ in secret recordings taken inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul minutes before he died.

A full transcript of the recordings, published in 2019, reveals how Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, deputy leader of the hit-squad sent to silence Khashoggi, an Dr. Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, who cut up his body, talked about the killing beforehand.

Khashoggi is told to write his son a text message saying not to worry if he cannot be contacted, in an apparent attempt to cover the hit-squad’s tracks. 

In the transcript Mutreb talks about stuffing Khashoggi’s body into a bag, but Al-Tubaigy says he is too heavy and tall, so will have to be cut up and put into suitcases.

The transcript then reveals Khashoggi’s final conversation with the two men and an unnamed accomplice, before he is drugged and has a plastic bag put over his head.

‘I have asthma. Do not do it, you will suffocate me,’ are Khashoggi’s final words before the sounds of a struggle and his body being dismembered are heard. 

The audio was captured by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation on microphones hidden inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. 

Saudi Arabia has admitted Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated act carried out by government agents, but said they were ‘rogue elements’ who acted without official authorisation.  

To this day, no trace of his body has been recovered.

In a bombshell report in June 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard argued there is ‘credible evidence’ linking Khashoggi’s death and attempts to cover it up to Prince Bin Salman.

The report concluded that the murder of Khashoggi ‘constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.’

She found Saudi Arabia had taken only ‘timid steps’ towards addressing its responsibility through prosecution and reparations.

The report also found that Saudi Arabia’s closed-door trial of 11 unidentified suspects did not meet global standards and should be stopped.

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