Premier League lawyers are reportedly investigating claims that Saudi Arabia are involved in the illegal broadcasting of top-flight matches, placing Newcastle’s proposed £300million takeover by a Saudi-led consortium in doubt.
It emerged on Tuesday night that English football’s biggest overseas broadcast partner beIN Sports had urged clubs to block the move backed by funds from Saudi Arabia‘s Public Investment Fund – controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The broadcast giants shone a light on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the piracy of matches, highlighting the Premier League’s unsuccessful attempts to take legal action against the state-owned satellite provider, Arabsat, in Saudi Arabia.
Premier League lawyers are investigating possible Saudi Arabia’s role in the piracy of matches
The Premier League have been urged to block Newcastle’s £300m takeover by beIN Sports
Arabsat sends out Premier League fixtures on the pirate channel beoutQ.
And now, according to The Times, a key decision in the owners’ and directors’ test that looks at suitability of a potential owner will be based around whether the allegations of piracy ‘are grounds to reject the takeover’.
Takeover rules were tightened in 2018 so that any potential buyers could come unstuck even if they had not been found guilty of a crime.
If the Saudis are found to be complicit in illegally broadcasting Premier League matches, that would fit into the ‘dishonest’ criteria within the framework designed to judge potential buyers.
However, it is claimed such a crime could be ‘difficult to tie to the prospective owners and those set to run the club’ even though the Premier League has been targeting beoutQ in the past.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the governor of the Saudi PIF and is set to become the new chairman
Further pressure on the takeover has come from campaign group Amnesty International, who wrote to Premier League chief Richard Masters urging him to consider Saudi’s human rights record before signing off on the deal.
In a letter replying to the campaign group’s UK director Kate Allen, Masters said: ‘You will appreciate that these matters are often subject to media speculations but at their heart are due processes required by UK law and by the Premier League’s own rules, which can’t be conducted in public and on which we can’t comment.’
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose fiancée Hatice Cengiz on Wednesday urged the Premier League to block the takeover.
League chief Richard Masters has said that the proposed deal will be examined with ‘rigour’
She said: ‘The Premier League should not allow someone like Bin Salman, who has yet to face any accountability for the murder of my late fiancé, to be so involved in sports in the UK. Doing otherwise will greatly stain the reputation of the Premier League and the UK.’
But should all go ahead as planned, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund will become the new majority owners at St James’ Park, holding 80 per cent of the club along with 10 per cent splits for financier Amanda Staveley and property tycoons David and Simon Reuben.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan will become Newcastle’s new chairman if the deal is completed.