Soccer-Newcastle takeover can improve conditions for LGBTQ+ people in Saudi Arabia, says supporters group

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(Reuters) - Newcastle United's official LGBTQ+ supporters group is hopeful that the club's takeover by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium can have a "positive influence" in the Gulf state and improve conditions for LGBTQ+ people there.

United with Pride conceded that "Saudi Arabia is one of the least tolerant for LGBTQ+ and gender rights anywhere in the world" but added that the investment in Newcastle could serve as an opportunity for decision makers in the country to witness how other cultures treat their minority groups.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) -- chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman -- now owns 80% of the club, with the rest divided between RB Sports & Media and PCP Capital Partners, whose chief executive, Amanda Staveley, led the takeover.

"There is potential to be a positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere," the group said in a statement.

"Recently the country relaxed some laws for women, which can be seen as a reflection of international influence."

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and organisations like Amnesty International have questioned how the Premier League can go ahead with campaigns like "Rainbow Laces", an initiative it launched with LGBTQ+ rights group Stonewall to promote diversity and equality.

Stonewall and the Premier League did not respond to requests for comment.

"The fact that in this investment they have collaborated with Amanda Staveley should indicate they are being influenced by our culture of respect, equality and tolerance," United with Pride added.

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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