BeIN Sport have launched a last-minute bid to scupper the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United, but why are a Qatar-based media group crying foul over their £400m rights, and what can the Premier League do to stop it?
- BeIN Sports has written to the Premier League to protest the Newcastle takeover
- The North East club are on brink of a £300m takeover by a Saudi-led consortium
- The Saudi state have been involved in piracy of the broadcaster’s products
- The Qatar-based service is in the middle of three-year deal worth £400million
BeIN Sports has launched a last-minute bid to derail the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United.
The Premier League are understood to be going through the owners and directors test to put their seal of approval on the deal, but it may not be a straightforward case given the protests from one of their largest rights holders.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at why a Qatar-based media group are urging England’s top flight to have a second think over ratifying the deal.
Newcastle United are on the verge of a £300million takeover by a Saudi-led consortium
Who are beIN Sport?
BeIN Sport are a Qatar-based media group boasting the largest portfolio of sporting rights in the world, beamed into the homes of millions across 16 countries.
Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the broadcaster’s chairman, they are the largest overseas Premeir League rights holders – paying £400m for a three-year deal back in 2018.
Fronting that coverage are the familiar faces of Richard Keys and Andy Gray, the former Sky Sports duo, while they have access to a host a big names for their coverage – with the likes of former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger regularly appearing.
Former Sky Sports pair Andy Gray and Richard Keys front the coverage for the broadcaster
So, what have the group done?
The company’s CEO, Yousef Al-Obaidly, has taken it upon himself to write to the Premier League and each of the 20 clubs in it.
It is a plea that the organisation take a stance against the impending takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi-led consortium, and do not allow it to go through.
In a letter address to the league’s chief executive Richard Masters, he wrote: ‘The danger of allowing the acquisition of a controlling or material interest (whether acquired directly or indirectly) in a major Premier League club by what is effectively the Saudi Arabian government cannot be ignored.
‘As a longstanding partner and huge investor in the Premier League, we urge you to consider carefully all the implications of doing so.’
The group’s chief executive has written to Richard Masters at the Premier League
Why have they done that?
Alerted by just how close a potential takeover is, they’ve been forced to act with urgency in bringing the issue into the public eye.
It all stems from the state-sponsored piracy of beIN Sports within Saudi Arabia, a campaign that has been onrunning for three years now.
BeoutQ has been broadcasting to homes in the Kingdom by state-sponsored satellite broadcaster Arabsat using the stream of beIN Sport, stealing millions of pounds worth of rights in the process.
Despite protests of no wrongdoing, several independent studies, including one carried out by a British cyber securities firm, show ‘indisputably’ that commerical theft is being carried out – and through state-backed operations.
They want a proper investigation this, and they want that carried out through the owners and directors test.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the governor of the Saudi PIF and is set to become the new chairman
So what’s the link between beoutQ and the Newcastle takeover?
Well, little directly. However, given the takeover is being spearheaded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, there is a clear link to the state.
The fund is run by crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, while the governor of the fund – Yasir Al-Rumayyan – is set to replace Mike Ashley as chairman.
BeIN Sport are adamant that Bin Salman must have had knowledge of the commerical theft being undertaken in his country. As head of the PIF, there is a direct link there between those about to hold a controlling stake in a Premier League club, and the company stealing rights from that very same body.
Why would the Premier League listen to BeIN Sport?
For one, they are their largest rights partner overseas. As stated previously, they are in the middle of a three-year deal worth £400m.
However, it is in the Premier League’s best interest to take a stance here. Nine times they have attempted to bring legal action against beoutQ, only for it to be thrown out at every turn.
In essence, this may be the only opportunity the league has to serve its own kind of justice to protect its intellectual property.
BeIN Sport are not the only company to have called for action against the piracy of rights in Saudi Arabia either.
Both the BBC and Sky Sports have also lobbied for action to be taken, writing to the UK government in a bid to hold the Saudi state to account.
The Qatar-based service has already frozen payments to Ligue 1 and the Turkish top flight
What can the Premier League viably do?
The power is with the Premier League, during their directors and owners test, to properly scrutinise the link between the Saudi PIF and beoutQ.
One of the rules in the Premier League handbook deal directly with the notion of dishonest acts that have gone unpunished, but could bring proceedings in a British court of law.
Rule F. 1. 6 states: ‘A Person shall be disqualified from acting as a Director and no Club shall be permitted to have any Person acting as a Director of that Club if in the reasonable opinion of the Board, he has engaged in conduct outside the United Kingdom that would constitute an… if such conduct had taken place in the United Kingdom, whether or not such conduct resulted in a Conviction.
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