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BeIN Sports calls on Premier League to block Saudi Arabia's Newcastle United takeover

BeIn Sports' involvement follows an Amnesty International letter opposing Saudi Arabia's potential purchase [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 April, 2020

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Citing piracy concerns, Qatar-based sports network beIN Sports has asked the UK's Premier League to re-examine a Saudi-backed takeover of the Newcastle United football club.

Sports broadcasting giant BeIN Sports has asked the Premier League to block a Saudi-backed consortium's attempted purchase of Newcastle United over piracy concerns, according to media reports.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is seeking approval from the Premier League to become a majority stakeholder in the North East English club for a proposed £300 million, a deal that was met with opposition from rights groups.

Qatar-based BeIN Sports said Saudi state satellite operator ArabSat has enabled a pirate network that illegally broadcasts Premier League matches.

In a letter to the chairmen of Premier League clubs, beIN Sports CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said Newcastle United's potential acquirer has caused "huge damage to your club's and the Premier League's commercial revenues".

"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," Al-Obaidly added.

The network in question, beoutQ, has been illegally streaming sports events since 2017.

In a July 2019 statement, the Premier League - along with football giants such as FIFA and UEFA - said the group sought the help of nine Saudi law firms for a copyright complaint against beoutQ, but the firms either refused outright or accepted, only to later recuse themselves.

In a separate letter to Premier League CEO Richard Masters, Al-Obaidly called for the application of the Owners' and Directors' Test, which ensures club owners and directors meet standards beyond legal requirements so as to protect the sport's reputation. 

Al-Obaidly said the test should examine 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".

BeIN Sports' involvement comes soon after Amnesty International's letter to Masters, asking the federation to consider Saudi Arabia's "appalling human rights record" before closing the deal.

"So long as these questions 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," wrote Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen.

Saudi Arabia and several Arab countries launched a blockade on Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting extremist groups and being too close to Iran - claims that Doha strongly denies.

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