The Premier League club will soon see Mike Ashley make way for Saudi Arabian ownership. Miguel Delaney speaks to supporters who have suddenly seen a moral dilemma thrust upon them

For a situation thats an emotional maze, Norman Riley is straight up about Newcastle Uniteds takeover, and admirably honest.
Im saying to you now, Ill still go to matches, the contributor to True Faith podcast says. And I have a masters in human rights. Im fully aware of Saudi Arabias record. Im massively conflicted. I still love that football club. The reality is I am going to engage in behaviour thats hypocritical. There are no two ways about it.
Newcastle supporters are forced to look multiple ways right now, because of a genuine moral dilemma that this takeover poses. One long-time fan The Independent spoke to was privately close to tears about the situation, not least about some of the online fan backing for Saudi Arabia. Riley fairly describes it as an awkward, awful position to be in.
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That almost always seems the luck for Newcastle in the modern era. They get their wish, but it comes with a heavy price, much greater than that the £300m PIF-led consortium are set to pay for the club.
The supporters have finally rid themselves of Mike Ashley, which is a genuine reason to rejoice. There is a hope the club can at last be released.
Amid such euphoria, though, there is already this growing noise that the new owners may be worse. Morally, much worse.
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Many fans just dont want to confront this right now. Many more find it very complicated. Others dont know what to think.
For some outside the club, the thinking seems obvious. Such a deal to use the words of democracy activist Iyad el-Baghdadi is disgusting. It wont be Newcastle as they know it. It will be a host organism for a sportswashing exercise, from one of the most criticised states on earth.
Worst of all, a specific part of that exercise is using the fans and their emotional connection. The thinking is they should walk away, boycott, whatever.
For those involved, though, it really isnt that simple. The same has long applied to Manchester City supporters. Because what is actually involved are deep psychological connections to clubs, that arent easy to break.
I went to my first match when I was seven years old, Riley says. You start getting into football as a kid. And all the politics, all the rest, youre not exposed to it. That love you develop, its really difficult to pour water on. I think thats the position a lot of fans are in. To extinguish that is really tough.
Greg Tomlinson, who is on the board of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, goes even further.
It leads you to that famous Bobby Robson quote about what a club is. Its not the directors or the owners. Its the fans. Weve been here before any owners, and well be here after any owners have gone.
Ashleys reign is about to end (PA)
Theyre about to outlast Ashley, and all spoken to for this piece admit this greatly influences the current mood about the next owners. Alex Hurst, the host of True Faith, is equally honest about his feelings.
Im excited. Delighted. The easy thing would be to sit here and say Im conflicted, but the feeling of everyone I know who supports Newcastle is one of massive excitement.
Youve got to remember this is a weary fan base. Theres been huge internal conflict. Ive got criticism because Ive continued to go to games. Everyone has a story like that.
The fanbase had given up on fighting Ashley and had started fighting each other.
So, before you even get into new owners, its that Ashleys leaving. It could be anyone. Its like a weight has been lifted from everyones shoulders.
Many might fairly scoff that the suffering under Ashley isnt sufficient to so overlook the real-life suffering caused by the Saudi Arabian state. It was only 13 years of mostly mid-table finishes, with two seasons in the Championship. That actually mirrors more of their history than the glory days of the 90s, as even Hurst admits.
That period hangs over everybody as this is how things are supposed to be, whereas Newcastle since the 1970s has really been lower mid-table, for one reason or another, and Id always say thats about bad ownership.
Such scoffing would also overlook the sense of aimlessness, futility and frustration caused by Ashleys time. Newcastle, really, were just existing.
Newcastle fans have long hoped for a takeover (PA)
For Dr Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East at Rice University in Houston, this might well be a specific reason Saudi Arabia picked Newcastle.
They are a club with history and potential, but who are so frustrated they are ready to see anyone coming in as a saviour.
Newcastle is probably a similar category of club to Man City when they were taken over, he says. It may well be the Saudis think they can do an Abu Dhabi, fanbase, history, all the rest of it.
Thats all the more powerful when, after so much austerity, theres the prospect of ostentatious spending. Its difficult for a supporter not to be seduced. Mocked-up images of Kylian Mbappe in a Newcastle shirt abound online.
Every football fan wants their team to win matches and trophies, Riley says. Thered be no point in going in going if you didnt. Obviously its about the bigger picture as well, family and friends, but for the first time in years Newcastle will have that opportunity.
It should be acknowledged that it is an indictment of modern football that a club like Newcastle need a takeover like this to even compete. That is the hyper-capitalist nature of the modern game, and many Newcastle fans would fairly see thats one reason they should not ruminate on this takeover too much. A general helplessness about it all remains.
We are effectively stuck in this position, Tomlinson argues. Weve been put in it and had no say. So the idea that we bear responsibility for who buys our club, in a system that allows football clubs to be owned by billionaires and sovereign states, thats beyond absurd.
Hurst concurs.
Where is the line? Maybe there is a line, but Newcastle fans arent the ones to draw it. Many wont care. Its football in 2020. You can look at the Premier League, the EFL, Fifa, Uefa, the government.
All of the people who have the power to do something dont want to do something, and that also legitimises what happens, that its OK.
There are a lot of people out there who will just think if the Premier League allow it, they know better than me. Its an easy dissociation to make.
Hurst does then raise a telling point.
If Newcastle are rubbish again, and run really badly, you will see people highlight the Saudi regime. That happened with Ashley. His sportswear practices were targeted by Newcastle fans because every other effort boycotts, protests, banners didnt work.
So you will see the fans criticise Saudi Arabia if they are run as disastrously as they had been under Ashley.
Fans have been left divided (Getty Images)
There are many who feel this is much more possible than is thought. El-Baghdadi, who used to live in the UAE before being expelled for dissent, says Newcastle fans should not expect a replica of the modern Manchester City.
There is a business culture difference between Saudi Arabia and UAE. The UAE tends to be more professional in the way they manage their money. Emiratis would give it to people who run it professionally. I would not think the same of the Saudis outside oil. They tried a similar relationship with Hollywood and all those contracts fell flat, due to mismanagement.
One of Mohammed Bin Salmans right-hand man, Turki al-Sheikh, got involved with football clubs in Egypt. That saw him abused by supporters. So I wonder is this really good for Newcastle?
There already appears some difference in plans. While Citys Abu Dhabi owners eventually went and appointed the Apple of football by appropriating the brain trust of Barcelona, the Newcastle consortium are set to initially put financier Amanda Staveley in charge.
One source close to the deal adds a note of caution.
The biggest thing that Newcastle fans need to know is that this isnt the Saudis arriving with barrowloads of money. Theyre lukewarm and want a profit.
How they use money is one thing, though.
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The bigger moral issue in all of this is how they use the club, and the fans. This is the major political motivation. They plan to utilise the emotional power of the supporters, creating that subliminal link.
Given that, and how much of this move has been motivated by the fall-out from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, do the fans not actually have unprecedented power here? They can undermine such motivations, and how they themselves are used, with a huge banner of Khashoggi.
Its worked for fans in other countries, particularly Germany. Lyon supporters meanwhile created a giant Tibetan flag when one of their matches in October was moved for Chinese TV. It was quite a show of political power. A banner of Khashoggi would be similar. The actions of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur supporters getting furlough decisions reversed in the last month, meanwhile, reflects a period of unusual empowerment for fans
You would be banned for life if you did that, so whoever did it would have to be happy with that, Hurst explains. You wouldnt get it into the ground. I started a group called Gallowgate Flags in 2016, and the security procedures just to get a normal flag in are massive. So, I understand the sentiment, and while it would send a message, in 2015 Newcastle fans got a banner in by the union Unite, and it picked up almost no traction, it just wasnt shown on TV.
For now, many Newcastle fans dont know where to look themselves.