Newcastle to travel to controversial mid-season camp in Saudi Arabia

Eddie Howe has confirmed Newcastle will embark on a potentially controversial trip to Saudi Arabia after their Premier League game at Leeds on Saturday.

Newcastle, who are 80 per cent owned by the Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund, will head off for a warm weather training camp at the weekend, although head coach Howe has insisted the focus will be entirely on football amid accusations of “sportswashing”.

He told a press conference: “It’s a football decision. We’re doing it for the benefit of the players, the group, in our fight to stay in the division, and that’s my only thought.

“The facilities and everything around the trip are going to be first-class. We will train and we will train hard and we will train in preparation for our next game, so that’s always going to be my only focus.”

The relegation-threatened Magpies found themselves at the centre of a human rights debate as Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium completed its takeover last year.

Asked if he would be happy to meet PIF chairman Mohammad Bin Salman and if that might prove a distraction, Howe added: “There’ll be no distraction from my side.

“As I said, it’s about the training and making sure that the players are focused on our next game. We’re just doing it in a different environment to bring the group closer together.”

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