football

Police to take no action over Crystal Palace fans’ Newcastle banner


Police have confirmed they will not be taking any action against Crystal Palace supporters who raised a banner last weekend criticising the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United.

As the supporters’ organisation Fans Europe endorsed the protests, police confirmed accusations the banner was offensive to Newcastle’s new owners had not been substantiated.

The banner was raised during the Premier League fixture at Selhurst Park on Saturday and showed a man wearing traditional arab clothing wielding a blood-stained sword. On his robe was written “PIF”, the name of the sovereign wealth fund that now owns Newcastle.

After the match a complaint was made to police about the banner by a member of the public. On Saturday night a tweet from the Croydon Metropolitan Police Service account confirmed an investigation, saying: “Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.”

On Monday afternoon, however, the Met said enquiries had been completed and that no further action was to be taken.

“On Saturday 23 October, a member of the public contacted the police to raise concerns about a banner displayed at the Crystal Palace vs Newcastle match at Selhurst Park,” they said. “Following an assessment, officers have concluded that no offences have been committed. No further action will be taken.”

Ronan Evain, the executive director of Fans Europe, said it was legitimate for supporters to raise questions about the takeover.

“It was a perfectly acceptable form of protest, it was based on facts,” Evain said. “I don’t think the accusation of racism made any sense in that regard. It’s legitimate that fans of other clubs raise criticism of this takeover. First [that] it is another superpower in the world of football which will ruin the competitive balance of the league. It’s fair.

“Also, if you’re a fan of a team in the same league at some point in the year you’re going to be attending a game against a team owned by one of the world’s worst human rights offenders. If that’s a topic you care about, it’s only legitimate you exert your freedom of expression within the boundaries of the law.”

Evain said that, while he was not certain there would be more protests, football’s role in society meant ethical considerations should be taken seriously. “We know that the tradition of protesting at stadiums is not so strong any more in England, and we know that [Crystal Palace supporters’ group] the Holmesdale is pretty politicised. But absolutely football should have an ethical dimension.

“Because of how influential football is in our society, it probably has a greater responsibility [to consider ethics]. The example given is that the Saudi sovereign fund has also invested in Uber and so on, but people don’t have posters of Uber cars at home. They don’t have tattoos of the logo on their skin or take their children to Uber’s AGM.

“The question is why is football so attractive to human rights offenders, to undemocratic regimes? That’s the problem and the reason is because owning a football club gives you a direct way into the hearts and minds of people who like football. We need a governance structure that limits that. Football needs to take steps to make the game less attractive for those types of owners.”



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