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UK police probing banner criticizing Saudi takeover of Newcastle soccer team

Huge poster depicted a man dressed in Saudi garb holding a bloody machete next to a business executive standing over a bag of money dripping with blood

Newcastle fans wait for the start of an English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England, Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Newcastle fans wait for the start of an English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur at St. James' Park in Newcastle, England, Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

LONDON, United Kingdom — A banner held up by Crystal Palace supporters protesting the Saudi takeover of Newcastle is being investigated by Metropolitan Police on suspicion of racism.

The graphic banner was held up before the 1-1 draw between the sides at Selhurst Park, questioning the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test and listing some of the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

The banner depicted a man dressed in Saudi garb holding a bloody machete next to a business executive standing over a bag of money dripping with blood and a checklist listing “terrorism,” “beheadings,” and “murder” along with other crimes alleged to have been carried out by Saudi Arabia.

The Premier League gave the go-ahead for a £305 million ($420 million) takeover earlier this month despite the Saudi sovereign wealth fund being the majority financer of the takeover.

A post from the official Croydon Metropolitan Police Service 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 tweet said.

Palace supporters group Holmesdale Fanatics, which was behind the banner, said in a statement: “The Saudi led takeover of Newcastle has rightly received widespread condemnation and anger.

“To give the thumbs up to this 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 and demonstrates the league’s soulless agenda where profits trump all,” the statement said.

Before the game, Newcastle reversed a call for fans not to celebrate the takeover by wearing Arab-style dress.

“Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally-inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit,” the Magpies said in a statement.

“Neither the club nor its new owners were offended by attire worn, and appreciate the overt statements of support and acceptance by our great fans.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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