Premier League urged to ‘fully interrogate’ Newcastle takeover

BeIn Sport chief executive Yousef al-Obaidly has urged the Premier League to ‘fully interrogate’ Newcastle United’s proposed £300m takeover by a Saudi-backed consortium. 

The chief executive of the Qataer-based TV giant, which is one of the Premier League’s largest overseas broadcast partners, has written to the chairs of top-flight clubs and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters regarding the deal. 

In the letter Al-Obaidly has accused the Saudi Arabian government of the “facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights – and in turn your club’s commercial revenues – through its backing of the huge-scale beoutQ pirate service.”

The letter continued: “It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake.” 

The accusations are in regards to the illegal broadcasting of matches, mainly in Saudi Arabia, by beoutQ despite the rights to show games in the Middle East region belonging to BeIN Sports, who are currently in the middle of a three-year £400m deal with the Premier League.

With this being said, Saudi broadcaster Arabsat has remained firm in its denial regarding beoutQ using its frequencies to broadcast illegally and has accused BeIN of being behind ‘defamation attempts and misleading campaigns.’

Al-Obaidly added: “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.

“To the extent the reports about the acquisition of NUFC are correct, we consider it essential for the Premier League to fully investigate the potential acquirer of the club, including all directors, officers and other representatives from the KSA PIF or other Saudi Arabian entities involved in, or otherwise providing any financing for the acquisition. 

“There appear to be several reasons why such an investigation is being called for by other parties; our request is purely based on Saudi Arabia’s past and present theft of your and your member clubs’ intellectual property rights.”

The proposed takeover of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle involves Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, PIF, which is understood to be set to acquire an 80% stake in the club. The deal is also part of a consortium including financier Amanda Staveley and billionaires the Reuben brothers.

The Premier League is yet to decide whether the group of investors meets its owners’ and directors’ test, with the league thought to still be in the process of working through paperwork which could yet take several weeks. 

BeIn’s request for the Premier League to ‘fully interrogate’ the proposed takeover also comes at a time when the country’s of both Saudi Arabia and Qatar find themselves involved in a wider diplomatic conflict in the Middle East. 

Criticism has also been levelled at the potential takeover by human rights campaigners Amnesty International, with UK director Kate Allen stated:  “So long as these questions [about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record] remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral, in breach of international law and at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community.”

At this moment it is not thought that BeIn is considering terminating its partnership with the Premier League, however, it must be noted that the broadcasting group did threaten to terminate its deal with Italy’s Serie A regarding the decision to host the Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. 

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