Flag of Saudi Arabia next to the Newcastle shield
Owen Humphreys / dpa
“We want Brucey out!
We want Brucey out! «, It thundered on Sunday in the closing stages of the game against Tottenham Hotspur through the St. James' Park of Newcastle United.
"Brucey" - that meant coach Steve Bruce.
Expressions of displeasure against him have become routine in Newcastle since he took office in July 2019. The local audience sees him as a symbol of the lack of ambition that had reigned in the 14 years under owner Mike Ashley.
Ashley has been gone for a little over a week, but Bruce is still there.
The new owners of the club from Newcastle upon Tyne in the far north of England, a consortium behind which 80 percent of Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is, let him, to everyone's amazement, at least for the first game after the so far most controversial takeover of the Premier League Job.
Bruce had an anniversary against Tottenham, he made his 1000th game as a coach, but it was a sad day for him, not only because of the 2-3 defeat.
He knows he is only a placeholder, his end in Newcastle is considered decided.
A big name is to be installed that will lead Newcastle United into a better future with the millions from Saudi Arabia.
For the fans, this better future has already begun when the sale of the club was announced a week and a half ago.
The pictures that took place immediately afterwards in front of St. James' Park - they were repeated in the context of the game against Tottenham.
They were pictures that testified to an unconditional homage to the new owners, to the great money and the prospect of great splendor.
A year and a half of negotiations
There were fans who disguised themselves as they think rich Arabs look like - with white robes and tea towels on their heads. Some spectators had the flag of Saudi Arabia with them. The flag of a regime accused of grossly violating human rights. And in whose embassy in Istanbul the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed. This flag has recently become a fan item in Newcastle.
The biggest applause before the Tottenham game went to the envoys of the new owners, namely Yasir al-Rumayyan from Saudi Arabia's state fund and new club board, and Amanda Staveley. The English businesswoman was involved in the 2008 sale of Manchester City to Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour and had worked for a year and a half to get the Saudis-Newcastle United deal done. She is the face of the new era on the River Tyne.
The scenes in St. James' Park were as bizarre as they were predictable.
It has been known since last year that there are hardly any reservations in Newcastle against the new owners, when the takeover was nearing completion and failed in the last few meters.
At the time, many United fans decorated their social media profiles with the Saudi Arabian flag and verbally attacked critics of the deal.
Almost 97 percent of the supporters wanted the takeover, this is the result of the fan umbrella organization at the time.
Now they have got their way and are cheering that they have "their club back" after the 14 dreary years under Mike Ashley - that's how they see it To restore the pride of a football-crazy city, and more about enhancing your own image.
"The big welcome for Newcastle United's owners was a great display of how sportswashing works," the "Independent" summed up the event.
It was also demonstrated against Tottenham that there is still a long way to go to achieve a sporting status similar to that of Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, which are also practically owned by rich Gulf states.
After the defeat, the »Magpies« remain penultimate in the Premier League.
Alleged turmoil among the fans is not felt
If the club is allowed to make the first transfers of the new era in January, they will do so as a relegation candidate.
And he will probably spend a lot less than expected.
The Telegraph just reported that Newcastle only had a comparatively small budget of 50 million pounds available in January, the equivalent of just under 60 million euros.
That's only a quarter of what the club should invest to be within financial fair play.
That doesn't dampen the euphoria of the fans.
They see themselves wrongly criticized in public for being happy about the end of the Ashley years and the arrival of the new owners.
After all, it is not their fault that sport and politics overlap more and more.
And isn't Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government doing business with Saudi Arabia?
There is a lot to read in English media about the fact that many Newcastle fans are supposedly torn between moral considerations, human rights issues and the simple desire for success, or at least the hope for success.
However, there was little to be seen of such conflict in the Tottenham game.