Police are carrying out inquiries into a banner unveiled by Crystal Palace fans before Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
The banner, depicting an image of the club’s new Saudi Arabian owners, PIF, about to behead a magpie as faceless fans in the background sang: “We’ve got our club back,” was unfurled by Palace supporters before the 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park.
As well as the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, giving a thumbs-up to a bag of money, it also listed offences that human rights organisations say the Saudi regime is responsible for, with a tick next to each one: terrorism, beheadings, civil rights abuse, murder, persecution and censorship.
A statement released by the Holmesdale Fanatics supporters group later said the Premier League had “chosen money over morals” in allowing the takeover, adding that it had “done business with one of the world’s most bloody and repressive regimes … To give the thumbs up to the deal at a time when the Premier League is promoting the women’s game and inclusive initiatives such as rainbow armbands shows the total hypocrisy at play.”
A subsequent post from the official Croydon Metropolitan Police Twitter account read: “On Saturday 23 October police received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans. Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.”
The Holmesdale Fanatics were not the only Palace fans group to protest against the recent Newcastle takeover. Proud and Palace, the club’s official lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender supporters group, posted a video on their Twitter account which highlighted the imprisonment of Suhail al-Jameel in Saudi Arabia.
A spokeswoman for the group said: “We want to pick up the baton started by our counterparts at Spurs, LGBT group Proud Lilywhites by raising awareness of Suhail al-Jameel.Suhail is in prison in Saudi Arabia for three years for being gay.
“He is a 23-year-old man who has been subjected to 800 lashes as part of his punishment. We don’t believe these owners have a place in the Premier League and we want to keep raising awareness.”
The Leeds chief executive, Angus Kinnear, had also questioned why the takeover was allowed to proceed in his programme notes for his club’s 1-1 draw with Wolves at Elland Road. He wrote: “The media and public have been left debating why the Premier League owners directors test is harder to fail than GCSE PE, but now our real focus should be on how the new owners of Newcastle embrace the values of equality, diversity and inclusion that are core to every club’s membership of the greatest league in the world.
“Simultaneously, there is an opportunity for all clubs to participate in a long overdue review of the rules that ensure the financial and commercial fair play that are central to keeping our league competitive and attractive. After the bitter schisms within the league caused by Project Big Picture and the European Super League we have at least found an issue which unites at least 18 clubs.”
Newcastle’s interim manager, Graeme Jones, meanwhile, paid tribute to Callum Wilson after the striker’s spectacular overhead kick secured a point in Jones’s first match since succeeding Steve Bruce.
Despite their winless run in the league now stretching to nine matches and with Newcastle still in the relegation zone, Jones – who is expected to take charge for next week’s home fixture against Chelsea – believes Wilson can be the player to help them climb the table.
“He’s a unique striker – the best natural finisher I’ve worked with,” said Jones. “But we need to start with that base and have a little bit of defensive solidity in order to allow Callum to perform. Every game will be addressed on its own merits for every match that I’m in charge. But one thing that can’t change is the mentality.”
Newcastle released a statement during the first half of the match at Palace, backtracking on the request earlier in the week for supporters not to wear head coverings in tribute to their new owners, adding: “Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit. We are inclusive to all.”