Soccer-Police to investigate banner at Crystal Palace critical of Newcastle deal


Soccer - England - Premier League - Crystal Palace v Newcastle United - Selhurst Park, London, Britain - October 23, 2021 Crystal Palace fans with a banner about Newcastle United's takeover before the match REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - Police are investigating a banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans at Selhurst Park on Saturday that spoke out against Newcastle United's takeover by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium.

Newcastle were sold to a group consisting of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media earlier this month.

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.

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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