Newcastle coach Eddie Howe says he is “well aware” of the mass executions taking place in Saudi Arabia as he was grilled on the topic after his team’s latest English Premier League game.
The Sun reports Newcastle’s trip to Chelsea, which ended in a 1-0 loss, came after it was revealed 81 people were ordered to be killed in a single day in the Middle Eastern kingdom — the largest mass execution in the country’s history.
In October The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund purchased Newcastle for $530 million, leaving the club bankrolled by Mohammed bin Salman. It led to concerns about the ethics of the football club being owned and run by a body with close ties to the Saudi state.
But Howe refused to comment on matters outside of what’s happening on the pitch, with his focus instead on Newcastle’s relegation fight, not their owners.
“I’ll stick to football,” Howe said when asked in his post-match press conference about the executions.
“I’m just going to answer questions on the game and football. I’m still bitterly disappointed from the defeat so I think it’s only right that I stick to football.
“I’m well aware of what’s going around the world but my focus is on trying to produce a team to win football matches, get enough points to stay in the league and that’s all I’ll say … I’m going to talk football. That’s all I’m concerned with.
It was reported by Saudi media the kingdom executed 81 men, including members of al-Qaeda, the “Islamic State” and supporters of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The killings carried out surpassed the toll of a January 1980 mass execution for the 63 militants convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 — the worst-ever militant attack to target the kingdom and Islam’s holiest site.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency announced the executions and confirmed that those included were convicted of various crimes such as murder.
A statement said: “The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.
“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world.”
Howe was speaking after his Newcastle side were left frustrated after a 1-0 defeat away to Chelsea.
The Toon had looked to be well on their way to a well-earned and valuable point on the road as they held Chelsea at bay for 89 minutes until Kai Havertz’s late winner.
Howe voiced his frustration after a string of decisions went against his side before Havertz — who was fortunate to still be on the pitch following an elbow on Dan Burn — broke Newcastle hearts.
This story first appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission