Newcastle United have backtracked on a previous statement that asked fans to refrain from wearing outfits or head coverings inspired by traditional Arabic attire at games as it could be interpreted as “culturally inappropriate.”
In a statement on Saturday, Newcastle said those who wished to wear “appropriate culturally-inspired clothing” could continue to do so and added that the club or the owners were never offended by the attire.
A number of fans have celebrated Newcastle’s takeover by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium by dressing up in robes and head coverings at matches and celeberations outside the stadium.
“The new owners have been overwhelmed by the welcome of the local community, following the acquisition of the club two weeks ago,” Saturday’s statement said.
“The fans who have celebrated by wearing culturally traditional clothing, including head coverings, have been part of that welcome.
“Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally-inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit. We are inclusive to all.
“To reiterate what we said previously, 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.”
Prior to the latest statement, equality and inclusion group Kick It Out had reportedly been planning to offer education workshops in Newcastle to supporters to explain how impersonating Arabs could be considered racist or culturally insensitive.
Police have also said that they are investigating a banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans at Selhurst Park on Saturday that spoke out against Newcastle’s takeover.
The banner at Palace, unveiled during the sides’ 1-1 draw, took aim at the Premier League’s ownership test.
“On Saturday 23 October police received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans,” Croydon Metropolitan Police said on Twitter.
“Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously.”
The Newcastle takeover has drawn criticism from human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
Palace fan group Holmesdale Fanatics said they were responsible for the banner and continued their attack on the Newcastle takeover in a statement on Twitter.
“The Saudi led takeover of Newcastle has rightly received widespread condemnation and anger,” it said.
“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 Newcastle takeover was 80% financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
However, the Premier League received “legally binding” assurances that there was clear separation between PIF and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The fans group’s statement said this decision “made a mockery” of the ‘Owners and Directors’ test.
The Premier League was not immediately available to comment.
Saudi Arabia’s government denies allegations of human rights abuses and says it is protecting national security from extremists and external actors.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.