KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The controversial £300m Saudi purchase of Newcastle United is on the brink of collapse after the findings of a World Trade Organisation investigation.
A report, leaked several weeks of its scheduled release, reportedly states that the Saudia state is behind the pirate television channel beoutQ which has been pirating major sports events including the Premier League.
The WTO says that Saudi Arabia is in breach of international commercial law. Such a breach would fall foul of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
Newcastle fans, angered over the past 13 years by retail millionaire Mike Ashley’s reluctant spending and muddled managerial appointments, are heavily in favour of the club’s sale to a consortium led by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
The beoutQ satellite channel has been pirating Premier League broadcasts in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.
The official rights contract is held by beIN Media of Qatar and the Gulf state is involved in a long-running economic and political row with a Saudi-led coalition. The critical clubs do not want to antagonise the Qataris at such a difficult time.
Complaints to the Saudi government by FIFA, UEFA and mainstream European leagues – such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League – have been ignored and no law firms in Saudi Arabia dare act on the football authorities’ behalf.
Ashley bought Newcastle for £134m in 2007 and has waited for at least five years for a potential buyer who would match his £300m valuation of the club. Aside from the TV issue, the Saudi interest has been opposed by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.