Newcastle FC and “sportwashing”

FairSquare Director on Newcastle United and “sportswashing”

FairSquare director Nick McGeehan has used an article in openDemocracy to explore the implications of “sportswashing” for football and democracy, in the wake of the Premier League’s decision to agree to the takeover of Newcastle United FC by a consortium led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The article offers potential lessons for Newcastle, drawn from the experience in Manchester, where Manchester City has since 2008 been owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, an investment vehicle for the ruling Al Nahyan family.

“What we have seen in Manchester, and what we are now witnessing in Newcastle, is that the purchase and generous financing of a football club results in influential groups of people becoming invested in the success of your project. The investment can be political, in the case of MPs and councillors who don’t want to be voted out of office for going against what supporters want and who see opportunities for the regeneration of dilapidated areas of the city. (Manchester’s Abu Dhabi-financed regeneration resulted in the construction of a load of luxury flats that have reportedly exacerbated inequality in a city facing a homelessness crisis.) The investment can also be commercial, in the cases of the businesses that will profit from the petrodollars poured into the city or the newspapers and broadcasters that fear a backlash if they delve too deeply into allegations of the new owners’ involvement in torture, or war crimes, or child slavery, or even pre-meditated murder.”

McGeehan argues that, “for football and for the UK in particular, the takeover is but a microcosm of a far wider and deeper issue of how dark money has taken hold of the island”.

In April 2020 FairSquare called on the Premier League to disqualify the takeover attempt, in line with the requirements of its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

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Launch of Vital Signs project

New initiative to study deaths of migrant workers in the Gulf

FairSquare is launching the Vital Signs project, a new initiative to quantify and research the deaths of migrant workers in the six GCC states.

Nobody knows the true figure for many migrant workers die in the Gulf, or the causes of their deaths. But available statistics indicate it is many thousands of people every year, a large majority of working age.

Vital Signs, which is being supported by Humanity United, will run from 2021 to 2023. Each year of the project will see the publication of a statistical report, examining key trends related to the deaths of migrant workers from five Asian origin countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines – in the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The reports will make tailored recommendations to governments and others.

Find out more about the Vital Signs project

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Covid-19 and migrant workers in the Gulf

NGO coalition calls on Gulf states to ensure protection of migrant workers during Covid-19 response

Credit: International Domestic Workers Federation

A coalition of trade unions and NGOs, including FairSquare Projects, has called on the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to take steps to ensure that migrant workers receive adequate protection from Covid-19.

The groups are urging the Gulf governments to:
– Ensure equal access to testing and medical assistance for all workers, and to ensure that worker are not deterred from seeking assistance from fear of detention of deportation.
– Ensure sanctions imposed for violating quarantines do not include detention.
– Where possible, to seek input from national and sectoral trade unions; ensure that workers who are prevented from working continue to receive their wages and have an adequate standard of living. This includes monitoring businesses to ensure working conditions are safe and that businesses are implementing guidelines and requirements.
– Carry out public awareness-raising campaigns to ensure that workers, including domestic workers, do not face discrimination or stigma as a result of the pandemic.
– Ensure domestic workers are provided with access to timely and adequate healthcare, sick pay and protective equipment.

The call follows reports of a spike in cases of Covid-19 among migrant workers to the Gulf, largely attributed to poor and cramped living conditions, and a lack of adequate protective equipment. 

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