Newcastle United has reversed a decision requesting that fans refrain from wearing traditional Arab attire at games over concerns that it could be seen as "culturally inappropriate".
A statement issued on Saturday by the football club, recently taken over by a Saudi-led consortium, said supporters who wished to wear "appropriate culturally-inspired clothing" could continue to do so while acknowledging that the club's new owners were not offended.
"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," the statement read.
"Newcastle United FC and its new owners continue to support the Premier League's initiatives on diversity and inclusion, including No Room for Racism."
Earlier last week, the team's website published guidance on matchday attire asking fans "to refrain from wearing traditional Arabic clothing or Middle East-inspired head coverings at matches if they would not ordinarily wear such attire." As there remained "the possibility that dressing this way is culturally inappropriate and risks causing offence to others".
My Saudi colleagues found this hilarious and haven't stopped sharing it. Not sure who would have issued a directive to Newcastle fans not to wear Arab dress. Wouldn't have been a Saudi, I don't think. #NUFC pic.twitter.com/D0nSQOy3DM
— Grumpy Get (@ThePerfumed) October 25, 2021
The anti-racism group Kick It Out was planning on holding workshops with fans aimed at discouraging them from wearing tea towels on their heads.
During the Magpies' clash with Crystal Palace on the weekend, Newcastle fans could be seen wearing Arab headdresses, known as ghutra.
So funny #saudiarabia #middleeast #arab #humanrightsviolations #humanrights #justice #humanrightsdefenders #NewcastleUnited #Newcastle_Saudi #NewcastleUnitedFc #NewcastleTakeover pic.twitter.com/CFUIJGrtZo
— Raffles! 🏴🏏 (@LordsRaffles) October 17, 2021
However controversy ensued after some Palace fans protested the Premier League's approval of the Newcastle takeover by unveiling a banner depicting the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) as a scimitar-wielding man in traditional Arab clothing about to behead a magpie representing the club's nickname and mascot.
An image of a clipboard is also shown under the headline 'Premier League Owners Test' with a checklist containing "Terrorism, beheading, civil rights abuses, murder, censorship and persecution"
Crystal Palace fans have unveiled a banner protesting Newcastle's Saudi takeover 👏 pic.twitter.com/SAgVEv8JYj
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) October 23, 2021
Croydon Metropolitan Police are reportedly investigating the banner, stating on Twitter: "On Saturday 23 October police received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans."
"Officers are assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously."
Newcastle Fans: "Oh, Crystal Palace's banner was racist, we're so upset"
— James F Johnson (@MisterJohnson87) October 23, 2021
The Palace supporters' group Holmesdale Fanatics, who claimed responsibility for the banner, issued their own statement, saying: "The Saudi led takeover of Newcastle has rightly received widespread condemnation and anger."
"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."