Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville believe Premier League managers must be prepared to answer tough questions about who owns clubs and where their money comes from.
Over the past week, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has handled questions about Roman Abramovich and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a ‘statesman’s way’, according to Neville .
But Eddie Howe, who was appointed as Newcastle manager by the club’s Saudi Public Investment Fund owners in November, declined to comment when asked if Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in a day after the his team’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Sunday.
Ask by Monday night football presenter David Jones on whether it’s fair that managers like Howe should be faced with questions about such matters, Carragher said: “Yeah, I think so, with the situation and the way everyone sees it and at how much a lot of people are against it – and that’s understandable.
“Thomas Tuchel handled the whole situation very well with what is happening with Roman Abramovich and what is happening in Ukraine.
“The question to Eddie Howe on Sunday, the tone was, ‘Eddie, what are you doing working for the Saudis, aren’t you aware of what they are doing?’
“It was the insinuation, and it’s a very difficult position for him.”
Carragher then asked Neville, himself a former manager, how he would have answered the same set of questions.
“Eddie Howe is in an extremely difficult position,” Neville said. “Tuchel has been like a statesman over the past two weeks, getting up and finding the right balance between understanding that he’s working for the football club, but also that it’s not right. He’s risen in everyone’s estimates.
“I think Jurgen Klopp does that very well at Liverpool too. When social or political issues come into their world, they treat them with great honour.
“Eddie Howe is going to have to because these issues are not going to go away.
“In any other area of life, we’d be very nervous about working for an organization that has money that isn’t particularly clean.
“Footballers for the last 20 years have been shunned away from this, thinking it’s not in the sphere of sport, rising above it and not accepting the link between sport, politics and sportwashing.
“But the sport is now scrutinized in ways you wouldn’t believe. It needs independent regulation and transparency.
“It’s too much for the Premier League executive at the moment. These are massive global issues knocking on our door.
“Eddie Howe is not ready to deal with them. He is ready for the job, but he has not joined Newcastle to answer massive political questions related to a war or mass executions in Saudi Arabia.
“He’s a footballer, but if you’re a football manager now, you have to answer these questions because one thing is certain and that is that journalists have to ask these questions.
“I have to say, Abu Dhabi, these questions are going to come to the people of Manchester City soon, Pep Guardiola is going to start asking these questions.
“It’s not going to go away. If in a year or two a regulator is put in place and it’s decided that you can’t have public money in football in this country, they will potentially have to reverse what has happened over the last 15 years in this country because the state money is already there.
“It will have to be looked at very carefully because it will set a huge precedent with what they are doing with Russia.”
Neville: We have to be responsible | I would be surprised if the Saudi-Chelsea deal is done
Neville continued: “Reporters have to ask the questions. We have to ask the questions.
“There was a time when we tried to stay away from these huge societal issues. We can’t anymore.
“We cannot sit here with a global game, a global brand, with sanctions imposed on our major football clubs by our government and foreign governments, and not comment on it. We have to be responsible.
“If you look at the owners of the top six clubs in the country, it’s probably only Liverpool who are popular with the fans and have no moral issues.
“The other five clubs, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham are unhappy with their owners, and Manchester City and Chelsea have huge moral issues with their ownership.”
Neville added that he would be “astonished” if a £2.7billion takeover bid for Chelsea by the Saudi Media Group was cleared.
“There was a headline today that there was a £2.7 billion bid for Chelsea from the Saudi Media Company. I would be amazed if this Saudi Media Company was allowed to buy Chelsea on the back to what happened.
“I think there’s something that happens very quickly in terms of testing the fit and proper person who is not resilient or independent or transparent.
“We don’t know what criteria or hurdles the Saudis had to go through to enter this country.
“I was supportive of them coming, although I would reevaluate that after what’s happened over the last 10 days.”