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Newcastle’s support of Josh Cavallo raises awkward questions for new Saudi owners – Simon Bird

Newcastle tweeted their support for A-League star Josh Cavallo after he came out as gay last week, but it raises problematic questions for the Saudi owners – whose regime punish gay people

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Amanda Staveley speaks to the media after confirmed Newcastle takeover

Newcastle United showed support for footballer Josh Cavallo who came out as gay this week.

“A powerful and inspirational message, Football is for everyone…” the club tweeted, and keeper Karl Darlow also spoke out in solidarity.

It was important advocacy for equality by Darlow, Newcastle and their media team who have a track record of backing progressive causes.

But it also raises awkward questions of the club’s new Saudi Arabian owners, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Back in Saudi, a gay man Suhail Al-Jameel, 25, is locked up for posting a shirtless photo on Snapchat two years ago.








Newcastle tweeted their support of Josh Cavallo, while Karl Darlow spoke in solidarity
(

Image:

Instagram)



Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi and there is a long list of citizens who have been punished. Jail, lashes, and chemical castration are among the methods used to oppress.

Even those who support gays on social media have been punished.

In July last year, one blogger, Mohamad al Bokari is reported to have been jailed for ten months, fined and given a deportation order for supporting same sex relationships on Twitter.

If Darlow and Newcastle United’s media team posted that tweet in Saudi Arabia, they may well be facing jail.







Newcastle’s Saudi owners aren’t known for their support of gay people



So how does PIF chairman and Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman – plus the six government ministers on the PIF board – feel about their new football investment backing the LGBT community?

When I put this issue to director Amanda Staveley on takeover day, she insisted there was separation between the club’s activities and the state of Saudi Arabia.

She pledged to support the Rainbow Laces campaign, and rightly so.




But will this antagonise the Saudi pay-masters who are the real powers behind decision-making at St James’ Park?

Will they allow their investment to maintain a campaigning stance for homosexuals, while arresting 200-plus a year, according to one report, for being gay?

There are the problematic questions being raised by the Saudi takeover. It’s about far more than signing a new centre forward.


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