Newcastle United’s LGBT+ fan group, United with Pride, has decided to leave the Pride in Football network.
Pride in Football confirmed the Newcastle United LGBT+ fan groups decision in a statement. It said: “LGBT+ fans groups have faced increasing media attention since the takeover of Newcastle United given the questions raised around human rights. As we stated at the time, we have serious questions around the governance of the game and suitability of the tests for club owners and directors.
“It is also worth noting for those unfamiliar with our groups that, primarily, we are volunteers and we work on inclusion within the sport because we love football. 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 or issues around inclusion on the terraces in the UK.
“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.”
Last month, United with Pride faced criticism after releasing a statement on the day Newcastle’s Saudi Arabia-backed takeover went through.
It said working with the club’s new owners could be “a positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia”.
Previously, United with Pride asked other clubs’ LGBTQI+ supporters to warn of any protests planned against Newcastle’s new owners.
United with Pride said that it will then report the planned protests to both the club and stadium security to ensure protestors’ safety and to avoid any possible hostility from other Newcastle fans.
The fan group also added that, although it welcomes travelling fans to St James’ Park, it would not be joining any public protest on matchdays.
Speaking to the BBC today, Ian Pearson-Brown of Newcastle’s United with Pride said: “We all knew there was going to be a lot of spotlight and interest on our views from a human rights perspective.
“But the narrative has been hijacked by some people who believe that we, as football fans, should be doing something about the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia because our owner is from that country and has taken a role in running it.
“Now, there are arguments for and against that, and we’ve taken a position that everyone in our group has been OK with. But some groups outside of the north-east have gone on the attack.
“It’s difficult to see where the value is in helping LGBT people in Saudi Arabia by attacking football fans here who just want to go to a game and sit in an environment where they feel safe to be their authentic selves.”
“One of the things that makes it really challenging for us to want to keep going isn’t that we have Saudi Arabian owners,” he says.
“It’s that we know that, whatever we do from this point onwards, we’re going to get a lot of social media abuse.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the largest party in the consortium that purchased Newcastle and now owns around 80 per cent of the Premier League club.
Since the takeover, protests by both Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace fans have called for the release of Suhail al-Jameel, a 25-year-old social media influencer reported to have been arrested in Saudi Arabia for posting a shirtless picture in leopard print shorts.