The English Premier League’s Newcastle United is under fire with its Muslim players after having signed a four-year jersey sponsorship from short-term loan company, Wonga, various newspapers reported on Wednesday.
Four players out of the club’s starting 11, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa, are allegedly considering refusing to wear the jersey which could cause complications for the club, Egypt’s al-Ahram online reported.
“It’s a sad indictment of the profit-at-any-price culture at Newcastle United,” Nick Forbes, city council leader, told Reuters.
In a bid to maximize its profits, the club stood by the deal with Wonga, worth 24 million pounds sterling, after ending its previous sponsorship with Virgin Money, which was worth 3 million pounds sterling ($4.8 million) a year.
Such agreement comes in conflict with the Shariah law that prohibits benefiting from lending or receiving money, with Islamic banks saying they don’t pay fixed interests.
While Newcastle United’s managing director Derek Llambias said that he is “delighted to welcome Wonga into the fold as our lead commercial partner, alongside Puma and Sports Direct,” adding that the board is “building a club that can regularly compete for top honors at the highest level,” Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of Muslim Council of Britain said: “there are two aspects to this. We have the rulings of the religious law and we have the individual’s choice and decision on how they want to follow or not follow that rule,” England’s the Telegraph reported online.
Mogra drew comparison to Fredric Kanoute, former striker for West Ham, another Muslim player who refused to wear the logo for gambling site 888.com when he was playing for Seville in the Spanish League.
“Freddie was allowed to wear a top without the 888.com and that is a reasonable request to be made by the player. Assuming all four are on the pitch at the same time, if you have seven out of 11 [referring to Newcastle United], you have sufficient coverage. It is not asking too much, I believe.”