Saudi Newcastle training camp will be another ‘sportswashing’ PR stunt

It’s a business event, okay? As far as Eddie Howe and everyone at Newcastle United are concerned, it’s “work training camp, … training and working and playing a game”.

He didn’t want it any other way. Hard work is Howe’s mantra. It’s not all work, work, work – he knows the value of downtime and a lighter mood – but when he says he’s looking forward to doing some serious work at the “first-class” training in Saudi Arabia, you can be sure he means it.

It’s just that… well, sometimes in British life these days it can be hard to believe that a business event is going ahead without conditions.

Sometimes a business event can mean something uncannily resembling a Downing Street garden party at a time when lockdown restrictions are in effect. And sometimes a business event can mean accepting hospitality from a Saudi state accused of buying a Premier League club as part of a wider bid to soften its image in the eyes of the world and strengthen its ties. diplomatic, strategic and economic relations with the West.

From the moment Newcastle was finally taken over by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), it was clear that a mid-season training camp was not going to be just a mid-season training camp.

“Saudi Arabia is implicated in a range of crimes under international humanitarian law in the long-running conflict in Yemen,” Sacha Deshmukh, acting chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said this week.

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