Newcastle players jet off to Saudi Arabia for as Amnesty International fears sportswashing

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Newcastle players jet off to Saudi Arabia for training camp as boss Eddie Howe, Kieran Trippier and Allan Saint-Maximum lead the group to the airport… and even Callum Wilson hobbles to the plane on his crutches!

  •  Fresh from their win over Leeds, the Toon players were spotted at the airport
  • They are heading to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a period of warm-weather training 
  • It is a controversial trip but Eddie Howe insists it is a football decision to go
  • The team have a 17-day break between fixtures and are not in action till February 


Eddie Howe and his Newcastle United team have jetted off on their controversial trip to Saudi Arabia.

Stars such as Kieran Trippier and Allan Saint-Maximum were pictured suitcases in tow as they arrived at Newcastle International Airport on Sunday morning following their much-needed 1-0 win over Leeds United the day before.  

As revealed by Sportsmail, the squad will fly to Jeddah for a warm-weather training camp during which they will also play a game, although media are not allowed.

Eddie Howe and his Newcastle team were pictured at the airport heading to Saudi Arabia

Eddie Howe and his Newcastle team were pictured at the airport heading to Saudi Arabia

The trip marks the team’s first visit to the Gulf kingdom since they were taken over by the country’s Public Investment Fund in October. Co-owner Amanda Staveley – who we understand will travel with the squad – had to convince the Premier League that the club would not be controlled by the Saudi state and that PIF was a separate entity.

However, Amnesty International fear the visit will turn into ‘another PR opportunity for the Saudi authorities who are trying to sportswash their appalling human rights record’.

In a press conference, Howe did not say whether he and his squad would meet officials such as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and PIF governor and Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan but said the trip was a ‘football decision.’

The trip has been controversial with Amnesty International fearing it will be sportswashing

The trip has been controversial with Amnesty International fearing it will be sportswashing

The team depart having won their first away game of the season and just their second of the campaign so far.

Speaking before the Leeds match, Howe said the Saudi break was a good idea despite the unwanted attention it will attract.   

‘I think it’s a worthwhile exercise. The facilities will be first-class and we’ll be well looked after,’ he said. 

Howe though insisted it was a 'football decision' to go and had planned to take his team away

Howe though insisted it was a ‘football decision’ to go and had planned to take his team away

‘It’s a football decision. We are doing it for the benefit of the players in our fight to stay in the division, that’s my only thought.

‘There will be no distraction from my side. It’s about making sure the players are focused on the next game.’

Newcastle’s players were told last week that they would be going to Saudi during their 17-day gap between matches. It is thought the destination was suggested at the invite of the owners.

The team will be able to enjoy a 17-day break between games as their next Premier League fixture is not until February 8 at home to Everton.

The trip comes off the back of a much-needed 1-0 win against Leeds United on Saturday

The trip comes off the back of a much-needed 1-0 win against Leeds United on Saturday

Howe said he had always planned to take the squad away during this period and was not worried about the lengthy flight to Jeddah.  

‘I think the travel is manageable, the distances aren’t too far,’ he said. ‘We have quite a big gap before our next game.

‘In terms of Covid, everything will be very tight. We will try to look after everybody, do some good work and come back a united squad.

Jonjo Shelvey scored the only goal of the game as Newcastle moved above Watford into 17th

Jonjo Shelvey scored the only goal of the game as Newcastle moved above Watford into 17th

‘I think it’s important that we encourage that unity, going away is a great idea. It’ll be a work training camp. 

‘I think it’s vitally important that people know we’re going to be very active.’

The trip will also have a knock on affect on Newcastle’s transfer dealing as both Howe and Staveley will be out of the country and three hours ahead on deadline day. 

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