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If you thought Mike Ashley was bad wait until you hear about Newcastle’s new owners

Out of the frying pan (now just £2.99 at Sports Direct!) and into the fire.

Newcastle fans have cans at the ready as news of Mike Ashley’s sale of their beloved club is expected any moment now.

And who could blame them if they partied in response?

The 55-year-old businessman has long abandoned any pretence that he genuinely wants what is best for the supporters.

Ashley’s ownership has restricted a club with the potential to be one of the best in England; with its vast and dedicated fan base, proud history, and impressive stadium (which was briefly known as the sportsdirect.com@stjamesparkstadium as a result of one of Ashley’s most shameless decisions).

Good riddance?

Good riddance?

The majority of the St James’ Park faithful will be understandably delighted to see the back of a man many believe has been a cancerous growth on their beloved club.

And with the news that the rumoured new owners have finances capable of bringing the best players and coaches to the North East, many believe a double-celebration is in order.

Some, however, are conflicted.

Not over Ashley’s removal – that will be unanimously cheered – but because of the identity of the new bosses.

The £340million takeover is likely to be primarily financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, with Yasir Al-Rumayyan expected to be named as chairman.

Essentially, Newcastle will join Man City and PSG in being effectively state-owned.

And its the actions of the states in question which raise the issue of morality.

A new era

A new era

The list of human rights violations committed by Saudi Arabia consists of, but is not limited to: detainment of equal rights activists, unlawful air strikes that have killed thousands of civilians, mass executions (including public beheadings), torture, and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi of the Washington Post.

We suggest you consult better authorities than Dream Team for details — in summary, it’s bleak.

Newcastle fans will soon face the same dilemma as Man City supporters: am I able to separate everything I love about my club from the horrors of the owners?

For many, the answer will be yes.

Many fans believe this is the best possible outcome

Many fans believe this is the best possible outcome

In fairness, it’s difficult to judge those who are willing to turn a blind eye to where the money is coming from.

Having endured Ashley, few would begrudge Newcastle fans the chance to enjoy an improved team who could challenge for trophies.

Cheering on a team of superstars is what most football fans dream of and it’s unrealistic to expect Geordies to limit their affection because of issues that often feel detached; just like it’s wrong to judge Man City fans for enjoying the brilliance of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and co.

How can we expect someone sitting in the Gallowgate End at 3pm on a Saturday to temper their lifelong passion because of air strikes over Yemen?

Our brains are not wired in such a way and, on a macro-level, it’s unfair that any fan base should be tasked with such complex moral quandaries.

But while it’s important not to judge a fan base who are accustomed to ‘supporting the club, not the owner’, we must be wary of those who venture too far in resistance.

Ashley was protested against on several occasions

Ashley was protested against on several occasions

It’s inevitable some fans will adopt an extremely defensive view of the Saudi regime once they are officially associated with Newcastle United.

Whataboutery will be rife (What about City? What about PSG?) and there will be occasional flat-out denials, both equally unhelpful.

It’s important to remember that it’s perfectly possible to support the team wholeheartedly while simultaneously questioning the ownership’s viewpoint on issues unrelated to football.

It’s doesn’t make you a better Newcastle fan to blindly adore the new ownership just because they’ll almost certainly improve the club’s fortunes.

Those who decide to defend the new owners in every aspect, even the utterly indefensible atrocities, must admit they are the type of person who values football over basic human rights.

This should be difficult for anyone to accept about themselves.

Newcastle have some of the best fans in the country

Newcastle have some of the best fans in the country

People often say football isn’t important, but to many of us, it is the thing to which we are most attached and emotionally invested, making it incredibly important.

Nobody is asking anyone, not least Newcastle fans, to suppress an innate love.

Equally, we must not lose perspective.

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