Premier League told to block Saudi-backed bid for Newcastle by broadcast partner

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The Premier League has been asked to consider blocking a Saudi-backed consortium’s attempt to purchase Newcastle by one of the league’s major broadcast partners.

The north-east club are reportedly on the verge of being sold to a sovereign wealth fund which involves Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for around £300million.

However, Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports has said Saudi Arabia should be held to account for its involvement in a pirate network which illegally broadcasts Premier League matches.

The Premier League was among a number of organisations and governing bodies who called on Saudi state satellite operator Arabsat to stop providing a platform for a pirate network they said was “abusing” sport.

The network, known as beoutQ, first began streaming sporting events illegally in 2017 and despite repeated attempts by sports governing bodies and rights holders to stop it, the piracy has continued.

Mike Ashley is looking to sell Newcastle
Mike Ashley is looking to sell Newcastle (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Yousef Al-Obaidly, the chief executive of beIN, has written to the chairmen of Premier League clubs saying “the potential acquirer of Newcastle United (has) “caused huge damage to your club’s and the Premier League’s commercial revenues”.

The consortium involves Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman
The consortium involves Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (Victoria Jones/PA)

“When the Premier League season re-commences in the coming months, all of the league’s broadcasters’ content will continue to be readily and illegally available via the IPTV streaming functionality on the beoutQ set-top-boxes which were sold in significant quantities in Saudi Arabia and the broader MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

“Furthermore – given the crippling economic effect that coronavirus is having on the sports industry – this is all happening at a time when football clubs need to protect their broadcast revenue the most.”

In a separate letter to Masters, Al-Obaidly is asking the League to apply the Owners’ and Directors’ Test, taking into account the “direct role of Saudi Arabia in the launch, promotion and operation of the beoutQ service” and “the challenge the Premier League itself has faced and will continue to face in taking any action to protect its own intellectual property rights in the country”.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been involved in a political dispute since 2017.

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