The Tyneside Premier League takeover, Putin’s gas pipeline and Xi’s disdain for US talks make an alarming hat-trick against the west

It has been a winning week for dictators. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman all have cause to cheer after weaknesses, divisions and double standards among the western democracies were harshly exposed. If US president Joe Biden is correct and a freedom versus autocracy struggle is playing out around the world, then the away team just went 3-0 up – starting at St James’ Park, home to Newcastle United FC.

The Geordies’ totemic war-cry of “Howay the lads!” may soon be drowned out by the slogans of marketing men, the silky swish of Arab robes and the exorbitant demands of imported stars as Riyadh-upon-Tyne bends the knee to the petrodollar princes. Many Magpies fans welcome the £300m Saudi takeover of their beleaguered, cash-starved club. That’s…

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