London (AFP) – Newcastle manager Eddie Howe admitted Wednesday he had to have a grasp of global issues even though he feels uncomfortable straying from football as he was questioned about the club’s Saudi-led ownership.
Howe was criticised for not commenting on Saudi Arabia’s decision to execute 81 men in one day after his side’s 1-0 defeat by Chelsea at the weekend.
A Saudi-backed consortium bought Newcastle in October, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund — of which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is chairman — owning an 80 percent stake in the club.
The takeover was rubber-stamped by the Premier League after it received legally binding assurances the Saudi state would not control Newcastle.
But Amnesty raised concerns over the purchase, saying it was an attempt to “sportswash” the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record.
Newcastle’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is back in the spotlight after Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Howe, 44, said he knew he had to be aware of geopolitical events.
“Part of my job now in the modern football management scene is to know what’s going on around the world and I will have to do that,” he said Wednesday on the eve of Newcastle’s match against struggling Everton.
“But football will have to be and will always be my passion and it will always be the main crux of my job — and I think that’s where my time needs to be spent.”
Howe added: “As soon as I deviate from that into an area where I don’t feel qualified to have a huge opinion, I think I go into dangerous ground, so I prefer to stick to what I believe I know.”
Newcastle are nine points clear of the relegation zone after a fine run of results prior to their defeat at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
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