NEWCASTLE, England (AP)Newcastle has confirmed another midseason trip to Saudi Arabia days after playing a Premier League match in the kingdom’s green and white colors.
The Saudi-owned club said Friday it will hold a training camp in the Middle Eastern country during the break for the World Cup in early December, less than a year after its first trip there.
Human rights organizations have long said that Saudi leaders engage in ” sportswashing ” – using sports for public-relations purposes.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund owns 80% of the club after having completed a buyout one year ago. At that time, the new owners offered assurances to the Premier League that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in turn the state, would not have any say in the team.
The Magpies will hold a ”warm-weather training camp” in the capital Riyadh from Dec. 4-10 after making a similar trip to Jeddah in January. They’ve scheduled a friendly match against Al-Hilal on Dec. 8.
Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe defended the club’s decision.
”We’ve made a football decision. We’ve looked at the World Cup break, what’s the best thing for the team,” he said ahead of Sunday’s game at Tottenham. ”We’ve made it from a purely footballing backdrop.”
Newcastle wore green and white – Saudi Arabia’s colors – for its marquee match against Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford. It ended in a 0-0 draw.
Newcastle is sixth in the league.
Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record includes the 2018 killing of newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. U.S. intelligence found that the crown prince, who recently was appointed prime minister by royal decree, likely approved the killing. He has denied ordering it.
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