The Premier League have been urged to consider blocking Newcastle United’s proposed takeover from a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia by one of the top flights major broadcast partners.
Mike Ashley is said to be on the verge of finally selling his stake in the Tyneside club for around £300million to a sovereign wealth fund headed by Amanda Staveley and funded by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
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However, the Premier League biggest overseas broadcaster, beIN Sports, has raised major concerns over Saudi Arabias involvement in the deal.
Qatar-based beIN Sports has claimed the Kingdom is involved in a pirate network which illegally broadcasts Premier League matches and has caused huge damage to your club’s and the Premier League’s commercial revenues, and should be held accountable.
Their intervention follows comments from Amnesty International, who have written to the league’s chief executive Richard Masters to say the takeover could be used by Saudi Arabia to cover up “actions that are deeply immoral”, including its human rights record.
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.
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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.
Last July, the Premier League said it had spoken to nine law firms in Saudi Arabia who either refused to act or later recused themselves when asked about pursuing a copyright complaint against beoutQ.
Yousef Al-Obaidly, the chief executive of beIN and board member of Paris Saint-Germain, 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 legacy of the illegal service will continue to impact you going forward.
“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.
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“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 serviceand 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.