Wearing a mock Arab headdress, Chris Greenslade, between swigs from a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, was proudly embracing his club’s new status as one of the richest in world sports.
“We’re Saudis,” the 41-year-old Newcastle fan said. “We can afford anything.”
The gloating and celebrations from fans were only before Sunday's match against Tottenham at St. James' Park, as the new era under Saudi ownership was heralded, before reality set in.
Callum Wilson put Newcastle ahead after only 107 seconds before the hosts collapsed to lose 3-2 and remain in the relegation zone. Much spending will be needed on players, along with a new manager as the crowd was demanding.
To receive the investment, Newcastle fans have to — reluctantly in many cases — accept their long-underachieving club becoming embroiled in a sporting moral maze of the ethics of ownership by a state. Embracing the riches of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to remove a long-despised owner means an unwelcome attachment with the murkier side of a kingdom.
“You’re going to get stuff like that along there,” Greenslade says, pointing out a vehicle emblazoned with the name “Jamal Khashoggi” alongside an image of the journalist murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. There was also a photo of the Saudi crown prince implicated in the gruesome plot: Mohammed bin Salman.
“Is there any evidence?” Greenslade said. “Is it nailed on?