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Newcastle United LGBTQ+ group leaves fan network over Saudi backlash

United with Pride says it has received constant criticism since the football club's takeover by a Saudi-led consortium
Rights advocates have accused Saudi Arabia of attempting so "sportswash" its human rights abuses (Screengrab/Twitter)

Newcastle United’s LGBTQ+ supporters' group United with Pride has pulled out of the Pride in Football network, following criticism of their response to the Saudi takeover of the British football club.

United with Pride’s break from the network of gay fan groups was confirmed in a statement by Pride in Football. 

"LGBT+ fan groups have faced increasing media attention since the takeover of Newcastle United given the questions raised around human rights,” read the Pride in Football statement posted on Wednesday.

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“No football fan should be excluded because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Our work in this area will continue, and we shall continue to raise the case of human rights - whether in relation to the Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle United or the hosting of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar."

"Whilst any member leaving Pride in Football is a sad moment, we would like to reiterate our commitment to campaign for LGBT+ inclusion, visibility and acceptance in sport and society." 

United with Pride claim that since the takeover of Newcastle United led by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), they have received constant criticism from those who say the group should do more regarding the kingdom’s human rights issues.

In an interview with the BBC Sport on Wednesday, Ian Pearson-Brown, the co-chair of United with Pride, said: “We have zero influence on who owns Newcastle United Football Club… and we just hope that, over time, people come to realise that attacking us doesn’t get the results you want.”

“If you want to improve the conditions for people in Saudi Arabia, talk to Amnesty International, talk to the Saudi consulate, talk to the UK government who engage with them all of the time.”

Saudi Arabia’s PIF is the largest party in the consortium that purchased Newcastle United Football Club in early October. 

The move received instant criticism from rights advocates who accuse the kingdom of attempting to “sportswash” abuses.

At the time, United with Pride, which works in partnership with Newcastle United, faced backlash after publishing a statement regarding the takeover, which claimed working with the club’s new owners could be “a positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia”.