The Premier League has been urged by one of its largest overseas broadcast partners to “fully interrogate” Newcastle United’s proposed £300 million (R6.13 billion) takeover.
Yousef al-Obaidly, the chief executive of Qatar-based TV giant beIN Sports, has written to the chairs of top-flight clubs about the deal, which could see the Magpies bought by a Saudi-backed consortium.
In the letter, Yousef accuses the Saudi Arabian government of the “facilitation of a near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights and, in turn, your club’s commercial revenues through its backing of the beoutQ pirate service”.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake,” added Yousef, who has also written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.
Pirated pay television broadcaster beoutQ has been illegally showing matches, mainly in Saudi Arabia, despite the rights to show games in the region belonging to beIN Sports, which is currently in the middle of a three-year deal with the Premier League worth £400 million.
Last year football authorities attempted to shut down the beoutQ service without success.
Saudi broadcaster Arabsat has always denied that beoutQ uses its frequencies to broadcast illegally and has accused beIN Sports of being behind “defamation attempts and misleading campaigns”.
Describing the issue as “a matter of urgency”, Yousef said: “Given the crippling economic effect that [the Covid-19] 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.”
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is understood to be set to acquire an 80% stake in Newcastle United as part of a consortium including financier Amanda Staveley and billionaires the Reuben brothers.
Mike Ashley has owned Newcastle since 2007 and put the club up for sale in 2017.
The Premier League must decide whether the group of investors backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund meets its owners’ and directors’ test. The league is understood to currently be in the process of working through paperwork connected to the deal, which could take two to three weeks.
BeIN Sports has asked the Premier League to consider “the direct role of Saudi Arabia” in the beoutQ service, the challenge the Premier League faces in “taking any action to protect its own intellectual property rights in the country” and its ability to “enforce” its rules against “Saudi Arabia-based persons or entities”.
This comes during a time when both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are involved in a wider diplomatic row in the Middle East. – BBC