Premier League at the center of a geopolitical storm after a challenge against the Saudis’ takeover of Newcastle – Alex Richards


Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb made it very clear in February: “We need to know BEIN that we’re here next to them.”

Now beIN Sports has accepted them in this offer, challenging the league and its clubs to prove this claim.

The second foreign rights holder in the Premier League, with a £ 500m contract over three years, called on the Premier League to block the takeover of Newcastle United.

The Magpies, after 13 years under the stellar leadership of Mike Ashley, are on the verge of being sold under a £ 300m contract.

This would allow the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – in fact the leader of his country while his father, King Salman, takes the back seat – to acquire a stake of 80 % in the northeast club.

The Toon could be in the hands of the consortium, also involving financier Amanda Staveley, in the next three weeks if the Premier League gives its approval.

Newcastle United is ready for a takeover

This week, Amnesty International wrote to the Premier League declaring that he would become “a willing dupe of those trying to clean up their abysmal human rights record” if he allowed the recovery to continue.

Now, for very different reasons, beIN Sports CEO Yousef al-Obaidly has made up his mind by writing to Premier League general manager Richard Masters.

He also sent a 926-word email – seen by Mirror Sport – to the club president, asking that the PIF be held responsible for its involvement in the pirate television network, beoutQ, which has been illegally broadcasting Premier League games since 2017.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied allegations of its participation, but repeated attempts by sports governing bodies and rights holders have done little to stop beoutQ in its tracks.

Last July, the Premier League said it spoke to nine Saudi law firms that either refused to act or later recused themselves when asked to file a copyright complaint. against beoutQ.

According to Plumb, this is “a very sophisticated hacker operation” – arguably the most sophisticated on the planet.

According to al-Obaidly, it has cost millions to millions of revenues to Qatar-based beIN Sports.

A beIN Sports program hacked and broadcast by beoutQ

Since relations between the pair deteriorated in 2017, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a series of political and economic disputes, fueling tension in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has led a regional boycott of Qatar – with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – accusing the gas-rich emirate of supporting terrorism and criticizing its relations with Iran; beoutQ has become another arm in the conflict, with beIN banned in the country.

Like most other hacking operations, beoutQ started out as a streaming website, which had been geo-blocked so that only those in Saudi Arabia could view it. However, within a few months it had expanded to offer 10 different beIN channels via the Riyadh-based ArabSAT satellite network.

Set-top boxes followed, subscriptions costing £ 85 per year, and the operation duly had the infrastructure of a corporate TV network, without ever paying for content; BeIN broadcasts were transmitted via ArabSAT, of which Saudi Arabia is the largest investor, and the beIN stream of the world’s largest sporting events has been identified by a beoutQ logo.

BeIN, which operates in 43 countries, has paid more than £ 10 billion for its rights portfolio. BeoutQ then gave them for nothing. In June 2019, citing a drop in income due to the hacking of beoutQ, beIN dismissed 20% of its workforce – more than 400 people – in Qatar.

Arsene Wenger, former Arsenal manager, often works on Champions League matches for beIN

Last September, a FIFA-funded investigation, also involving the Premier League and other major leagues, concluded “beyond question” that ArabSAT – which themselves accused BEIN of being “behind attempts at defamation and misleading campaigns ”- played a vital role in the piracy operation. .

Two months ago, the Premier League said it spoke to nine Saudi law firms that either refused to act or later recused themselves when asked to pursue a copyright lawsuit against beoutQ.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman heads his country’s investment fund

In December, Al-Obaidly said the Premier League was an “exceptional rights holder,” but targeted Serie A and Spain to host their respective finals in Saudi Arabia.

“We are only as strong as the weakest link,” he says. “Some rights holders do nothing and see more money in their parties and social activities than in their anti-piracy initiatives. You are watching Serie A and the Spanish FA, I find it really fascinating that they enter the same country that does piracy. “

This week, in his letter to the Masters, Al-Obaidly wrote: “We consider it essential that the Premier League fully investigate the club’s prospective bidder, including all of the directors, officers and other representatives of K.S.A. P.I.F. or other Saudi entities involved or otherwise providing financing for the acquisition. ”

The letter continues: “There appear to be several reasons why such an investigation is requested by other parties. Our request is based solely on the past and present flight from Saudi Arabia and the intellectual property rights of your member clubs. ”

BeIN asked Premier League in test of owners and administrators to consider “direct role of Saudi Arabia” in beoutQ service to offer scrutiny of Saudi PIF and fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan who is ready to become president of Newcastle.

Richard Masters, general manager of Premier League

Among the rules in the Premier League manual is Rule F1.6 who states: “A person will be disqualified from acting as a director and no club will be authorized to have a person acting as director of this club if, in the reasonable opinion of the board of directors, he has engaged conduct outside the United Kingdom which would constitute an offense of the type described in Rules F.1.5.2 or F.1.5.3, whether such behavior had taken place in the UK, whether or not that behavior had resulted in a conviction. “

Rule F.1.5.2 examines “any act which could reasonably be considered dishonest”.

Surely, by hiding your brazen implication, what beIN calls “the biggest commercial flight ever seen in the world of sport and entertainment” is perfectly suited.

And after having rubbed shoulders with its partner in the past, the Premier League establishing a definitive link between everyone involved in the takeover of Toon and beoutQ could create a way to block the takeover. Further on, although this is unlikely, he could also initiate proceedings in a British court.

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The widow of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hatice Cengiz, said on Wednesday that authorization of the deal would “stain” the Premier League greatly, but the government has made it clear to Parliament that it will not intervene.

Amnesty International has already knocked on the door of the Premier League and has not received a response.

This time they didn’t get much either, except for the disposable promise that all due checks will be carried out “rigorously” despite the human rights violations they cite – as they do today Today, April 23, which marks the first anniversary of the Saudis. the state beheads 37 people during a mass execution.

But the Premier League conundrum, beIN, beoutQ, Saudi vs Qatari is something different, where there is no precedent.

The question is therefore to know how much the league is in solidarity with beIN, its long-standing partner? As strongly as Plumb said two months ago?

Is Masters, who has replaced longtime chef Richard Scudamore by default when Choices One and Two have not materialized, is strong enough to send a message that he appreciates IP and current relationships of the league and draw a line in the supporter?

Or, as the Premier League and Newcastle are both at the heart of a geopolitical storm, will it forget all of the previous ones and just stand aside and give up money?


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