Graeme Souness has criticized the ownership of Newcastle United, suggesting the club’s Saudi owners “shouldn’t be near” the club.
Working as a pundit at the 2022 World Cup for ITV alongside Roy Keane, Joe Cole and presenter Laura Woods ahead of Saudi Arabia’s opening Group C clash against Argentina, Souness emotionally challenged the organization of the tournament in Qatar, before turning to the Saudi public. Investment funds during a segment focused on football sportswashing.
“Football is such a vehicle for good and bad,” he said. “The sportwashing that’s going on in our own country – Newcastle… there’s no way the Saudis have Newcastle United. They shouldn’t be near.
“But it’s not an ideal world we live in. The Saudis have invested in our country for decades. Football now has a profile that the Saudis see it, the people of Abu Dhabi see it and the Americans see it. It’s a chance to improve the brand they’re involved in.”
Of course, Souness managed Newcastle between 2004 and 2006, his last job as a football manager. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund took over the same club in October 2021, ending an unpopular (to say the least) ownership of Mike Ashley for the previous 14 years.
Souness also highlighted Manchester City and its owners during his impassioned speech.
“Right now it’s good news about Man City, but this brand, Man City and other clubs – the Abu Dhabi royals they have – it’s just good news to their subject all over the world.
“I guess Qatar will look at Abu Dhabi with a bit of jealousy and after this tournament they hope it’s a good tournament. It’s in their hands to improve workers’ rights, to improve the diversification of the country , LGBTQ. They won’t go easy, they’ll be on it all the time.”
Roy Keane also had his say on the tournament held in Qatar, criticizing the nation’s decision to host the World Cup at a time when football is striving to improve inclusiveness.
“The World Cup shouldn’t be here,” Keane said, “you have a country and the way they treat migrant workers, gay people. We’re about to broadcast the game, but reject human rights. ‘man, that’s not fair. shouldn’t be here.’