Will Qatar be welcomed by Man Utd fans like Saudi Arabia in Newcastle? It’s frightening

Man Utd fans at Carabao Cup Credit: Alamy
Man Utd fans at Carabao Cup Credit: Alamy

The League Cup final between Newcastle United v Manchester United could soon be a game between the public investment funds of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It’s easy to forget this when you see the incredible spectacle of the black-and-white and red fans at Wembley. Such impressive scenes that go hand in hand with big football occasions can wipe away a lot of sin, or at least use a massively wide brush to push it under the carpet in the house of football.

It seems incredible that two autocratic oppressive regimes, both of which are guilty of really appalling human rights crimes, could be allowed to take over such important civic and sporting institutions. But as we know, money talks so loud it drowns out the screams of those oppressed by it. It’s a tale as old as time.

The acquiescence of the fans of clubs taken over is assumed by those doing the taking over. They’re good at PR and enough fans are gullible, ignorant or just don’t care, for them to get away with it. Easy.

No matter how horrible the new regime is to their own citizens, a big final at Wembley, buying players, spending money on the club and even on the locale, plus three points next week, is more important than all that. More important than anything.

In a way, I do understand. We all stick our heads in the sand about something. We’re probably all more selfish than we should be. This big money world of oil-rich states seems a million miles away from our daily humdrum. But that doesn’t excuse anyone who raises a moral objection being quickly dismissed as already compromised for using a product that the same oppressive regimes have invested in.

If you want to pretend everything’s fine, your new oppressive ownership regime will tell you it is. If you will only accept criticism from those who have never committed a sin, you will have created yourself the perfect get-out clause. If you want to pretend only God can judge you, there’s a religion that wants to shake your hand. Avoiding responsibility is piss easy. Working for a better, more fair world, yeah, that’s the hard bit, kidda.

We know that a hardcore of fans will always be the new oppressive owner’s lap dogs. There have always been people who kowtow to those with money, land and power. Forelock-tugging has a long tradition in England, the country was largely founded on such obsequience and acquiescence.

It is arguably why we still have a royal family, an aristocracy and why we elect stupid, mendacious psychopaths with posh voices to positions of power. This stuff goes generationally deep and it’s not going away any time soon.

However, is this acceptance infinitely elastic? That’s what I want to know. No matter who buys the newly revived, tremendously managed and quite possibly Premier League champions, Manchester United, will everyone just willingly accept it? Will no judgement be cast? Will they be welcomed with open arms and celebrated as they were by almost all fans at Newcastle and elsewhere?

READ MORE: The Glazers are going. Now the fight against Qatar for Man Utd’s soul must begin…

Obviously, it’s right to state that supporters of a football club have no say in which evil empire acquires the club, but that’s also a bit of a cop-out. How do you know you can’t stop or change things unless you try?

There’s also a difference between acceptance and celebration. You don’t have to take to the streets dressed as a member of the Qatari royal family to rejoice in the new mega billionaire owner and you don’t have to beat up people on social media who raise an objection. To those who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, that looks very lame.

Football is not more important than human rights. That really shouldn’t need stating, but given how some supporters describe the underachieving fortunes of their club in apocalyptic terms, it probably does. Not winning anything for decades has no equivalence to the persecution of minorities and women, nor to working men to death in the burning sun.

When does it start to spoil everything? When is it that jagged little pill you just can’t swallow? Where do you draw the line? Or is there no line at all?

It is often said with some passion that you and your family have been Manchester United (or anyone else) fans for 100 years and you can’t just stop going now. I understand that, but, think about it. Is it true? Really?

Anyone really can just stop going. Anyone can stop buying tickets and merchandise. People do it all the time. Anyone can absent themselves from supporting a club. You don’t have to do it. It isn’t a physical addiction, even if it might be said to be an emotional one.

Will nothing ever make any difference to that? Just sticking with a football club, no matter what, isn’t noble, even if those who benefit from you doing so will tell you it is.

It is different from fan to fan, but you can’t have zero standards, can you? All decent people have a sometimes contradictory, woolly, inconsistent and imprecise, sometimes hard to rationalise, moral code they at least try to live by and for some people, having their club owned by an oppressive undemocratic blood-stained mob,just can’t be ignored, let alone celebrated. But for others it seems not to be.

Okay, fair enough, these are hard choices with lots of caveats, but where *is* your line? What won’t you put up with? Not supporting your football club as a protest against the owners literally involves doing nothing, after all. It couldn’t be easier. But still there is little sign many believe or care about this.

We all know we live in a very imperfect world, often under governments that are stuffed to the gills with stupids, liars and monstrous idiots. But just because they have no moral code isn’t our get-out clause. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about anything. Just because we can’t change everything doesn’t mean we should try to change nothing.

All of the questions these new ownerships throw up can’t be ignored forever. There’s only so much of that sin you can sweep under the carpet before you keep tripping over it. All I want to know is how bad does it have to get before you will walk away? What crimes against humanity do your owners have to have committed before you say, no, I’m out?

Flag Waving Trophy will have to do for now. But Newcastle United are coming…

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