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Equal Time: The Saudi Crown Prince should not be allowed anywhere near Manchester United

Friday 19th October 2018
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meeting with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meeting with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015.

I’m prepared to admit I sometimes put my personal interest before my political views. I’ve purchased the occasional item at Walmart because a] I need rather than want it and b] it’s not affordable elsewhere. I sell my book on Amazon because they’re the only game in town and I can use the money.

I’m fully cognizant of the Walmart clan and Jeff Bezos’ chintziness when it comes to employee compensation. I think it’s disgusting Stan Kroenke’s in-laws would rather use profits to buy up company stock held by outside investors than pay their employees a living wage. I find it repugnant that a portion of their new employee orientation's a tutorial on applying for food stamps. Similarly, the Amazon boss financed an across-the-board wage hike for employees by removing the stock options and performance bonuses that, left in place without the pay increase, represented greater earnings. In other words, he cut their wages just before the holidays. The best thing to be said about Jeff Bezos and the Waltons is they haven’t killed anyone, at least to my knowledge.

On the other hand, the Glazers may sell Manchester United to Mohammad bin Salman al Saud, otherwise known as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince. He's the man towards whom any common sense interpretation of the available evidence points as responsible for Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's apparent murder.

Pursuing a story, Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on 2 October. Audio from his Apple watch and other visual evidence indicates he was beaten to death. Further evidence points to people who work closely with the Crown Prince.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist with residency status in the US, a columnist on global politics for the Washington Post and former editor-in-chief for Al-Arab News.
Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist with residency status in the US, a columnist on global politics for the Washington Post and former editor-in-chief for Al-Arab News.

Also known by his initials, MBS drew constant criticism in Khashoggi’s reporting concerning the war he's conducting in Yemen, his naval blockade of neighbouring Qatar for being too cozy with Iran, detention of the Lebanese prime minister to force his resignation and placing several top Saudi businessmen and members of the Royal Family under house arrest in a luxury hotel for alleged corruption. He's passed laws against criticising his policies in any manner, including on social media.

In order to stop the negative press, it’s alleged he sent a top lieutenant, 14 other men and a bone saw on a private jet to Istanbul at 3 am on the day Khashoggi visited the consulate. The men, who the Saudis claim were on holiday, left the same day.

I cannot argue MBS’ wealth and extravagance don't represent a boon to Manchester United’s competitive hopes. His net worth exceeds Manchester City owner and Qatari deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's several times over although credible sources suspect he extorted much of it. If MBS is laying siege to the next World Cup hosts, it isn’t difficult to imagine he’d be thrilled to embarrass them in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho or any other manager would receive the funds needed to recruit any player desired, no questions asked. United would no doubt dominate the league again. Many United fans rub their hands in glee at the idea. For me, the price is too high.

Association football derived from games schoolboys played in 19th-century English boarding schools. Like most sport, it was a preparation for war. In this case, a method to teach young men to work together under physical duress from an opposing force. Gradually, sport evolved to represent a peaceful alternative to war. Are Manchester United fans willing to become a sideshow to murder, brutality and oppression? Separating politics from football doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to those who commit atrocities. It means denying such people use of the game to improve their public image.

I once thought nothing could break my bond with the club of Sir Matt Busby, Sir Alex Ferguson, George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. If Mohammad bin Salman al Saud becomes Manchester United’s principal owner, however, I'll walk away. Supporting murder's a line I cannot cross.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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