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Press Release – Equidem exposes labour exploitation by Newcastle United Football Club sponsor in Saudi Arabia, raising questions about Premier League commitment to prevent modern slavery


20 June 2024

@Equidem 2024

Conditions that may amount to forced labour have been reported by workers at Noon, the largest online retailer in the Gulf and one of the biggest sponsors of Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) according to research carried out by Equidem. Equidem investigators spoke with 47 current and former Noon workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  

Workers employed directly and indirectly by Noon in Saudi Arabia and the UAE described experiencing indicators of forced labour and modern slavery—including abuse of vulnerability, deception, restriction of movement, intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, withholding of wages, debt bondage, abusive working conditions, and unpaid overtime. Workers also described the devastating health impacts of working excessive hours in extreme heat, and the toll of relentless nationality-based discrimination. These findings raise significant concern that NUFC and the Premier League are failing their obligations under the UK Modern Slavery Act. 

NUFC players take the field in jerseys with the Noon logo emblazoned on the left shoulder—an ever-present reminder of their sponsor whose business practices stand in stark violation of  NUFC’s statement on modern slavery that claims they are committed “to ensure that there is no modern slavery or human trafficking in our supply chains or in any part of our business.”  In fact, not only NUFC, but also the wider Premier league, has released a Modern Slavery and Human-Trafficking statement. On their website the league says, “We do not tolerate modern slavery or human trafficking in our organisation or in our supply chain.” 

*Ramesh, a delivery associate from India hired by a subcontractor for Noon in Saudi Arabia, described experiencing a cluster for forced labour indicators, including intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, and unfair salary deductions:

“The manager deducted part of my salary for completing less than 20 deliveries. When I protested, he abused and threatened me. After that I talked about leaving the job and said that I need a transfer letter. He told me that you cannot leave the job without my consent, otherwise I will send you to jail. He kept all my documents.”

Beginning in March 2024, Equidem investigators spoke with workers across the Noon supply chain—including warehouse and delivery workers—in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Our investigation included the perspectives of migrant workers from 12 countries in Africa and Asia—Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda. Among the workers we spoke to, some were hired directly by Noon while others were hired through manpower supply companies. 

A warehouse associate from Pakistan, *Abdul, who was directly contracted by Noon, described working extended hours in violation of international standards in order to meet unreasonable production targets under the looming threat of termination. Abdul told Equidem: 

“I work continuously for 12 hours a day, on standing duty, without a break, like a machine... Because of the targets we do not go for water or to the washroom... Now so many of us have kidney problems.” 

*Grace, a Ugandan delivery associate directly contracted by Noon in the UAE described the health consequences of racing against the clock to deliver packages:  

“I got an infection due to walking too much in the heat and I am still treating it. Long hours, working in the heat, you deliver until all your clothes get soaked in sweat. Without enough sleep, due to fatigue and stress, I lost weight. I didn't even get time to eat because I was running to deliver packages.” 

Not only does this investigation raise alarm bells for NUFC and the Premier League, but the Saudi Public Investment Fund that now has fifty percent ownership of Noon—calling into further question FIFA’s unilateral consideration of Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2034.  

Equidem calls upon FIFA to apply and enhance its binding and actionable commitments to address risk factors for labour and human rights violations as a condition of confirming Saudi Arabia’s bid to host FIFA World Cup 2034. As this investigation further underscores, Saudi Arabia cannot guarantee compliance with international human rights and labour standards without taking significant measures to address risk factors for forced labour and modern slavery. The persistence of rights violations and perpetuation of this context where migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation raises serious questions about the extent to which labour and migration reform processes in Saudi Arabia have actually protected workers from exploitation, including forced labour and modern slavery. The issues documented by Equidem’s ongoing investigation of Noon in Saudi Arabia are rooted in the lack of democratic power for workers and is reflected in other human rights issues including the targeting of rights activists, restrictions on freedom of expression, the enactment of repressive laws, the abuse of the criminal justice system, and the mistreatment of women and LGBTQI communities. 

*Name changed for security 




Phone: +44 (0) 204 537 1165.



About Equidem 

Equidem is a rightsholder-centered organization committed to advancing labour rights and human rights globally. Equidem employs a unique approach, placing rightsholders at the forefront not only of our work but as members of our team to bridge the gap between the international and grassroots human rights movements. We focus on innovative, rigorous and impactful evidence-based advocacy and campaigns and are specialists in exposing injustice in high-surveillance and sensitive contexts, whether it’s megasporting events, prison-like consumer-brand supply chains in special economic zones, or industries at the heart of the just transition. Equidem is headquartered in the UK with mixed expert and rightsholder teams in East, West and South Africa, South and South East Asia, and the Arab Gulf regions.