Newcastle planning camp in Saudi Arabia despite criticism

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — Saudi-owned Premier League club Newcastle will hold a mid-season training camp in the kingdom, raising concerns among human rights organizations about using sport to clean up their image.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund completed the purchase of the club in October after providing assurances to the Premier League that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in turn the country, would have no say in team decisions.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe confirmed on Friday that the club will travel to Saudi Arabia after their game against Leeds on Saturday. The goal, he said, was to strengthen unity as a relegation-threatened team struggle to survive in the Premier League.

“This is a sporting decision. We’re doing it for the benefit of the players, the group, our fight to stay in the division and that’s all I can think of,” Howe told a news conference.

“I think going out is a great idea,” he added. “This will be a training camp job. We’re going to train and work and play, so I think it’s really important that people know that we’re going to be very active.”

The club did not release information about the game Howe was referring to.

However, human rights organizations argue that Saudi Arabia uses sporting events for public relations purposes.

“A training camp like this could easily become another public relations opportunity for the Saudi authorities, who are clearly pursuing aggressive policies as they seek to use sport to clear their image of their appalling human rights record,” said Sacha Deshmukh, executive director. from Amnesty International UK.

Matt Thompson

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