Saudi-Backed Consortium Bid to Takeover Newcastle United Faces Criticism

A £300m takeover of Newcastle by a Saudi-backed consortium is in the spotlight after Fifa and Uefa heavily criticized Saudi Arabia for allegedly supporting a pirate service that illegally streamed football matches.

Meanwhile, according to a report in The Guardian, Newcastle United has received rival £350m takeover bid from US businessman Henry Mauriss who is CEO of US television company Clear TV.

Premier League is yet to rule on the consortium takeover bid. Mauriss’s late bid is being regarded with a degree of skepticism, says the report.

The world and European football’s governing bodies response on the consortium’s takeover bid came after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the pirate beoutQ service was “operated by individuals or entities subject to the criminal jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia” and said the Saudi state had breached intellectual property rights by failing to tackle it.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is said to be seeking a 80% stake in Newcastle. The WTO ruling may however increase the scrutiny on the Premier League’s decision over whether to approve the takeover.

The WTO report followed a complaint by Qatar over the piracy of its broadcaster beIN Sports, which holds the rights to show Premier League games in the Middle East.

Uefa pointed out that beoutQ was hosted on Arabsat, based on Riyadh and majority Saudi-owned. “What is clear is that beoutQ’s broadcasts constitute piracy of Uefa’s matches and as such, are illegal. BeoutQ was hosted on frequencies transmitted by Arabsat and was promoted and carried out by individuals and entities subject to Saudi Arabia’s territorial jurisdiction. Piracy not only threatens that investment but also the existence of professional sport as we know it.”

The WTO dispute panel which released its report Tuesday ruled against Qatar’s six claims against the kingdom on grounds of national security defense.

It justified the kingdom’s stance in Qatar broadcasting dispute, according to Arab News.

Soccer (football in Europe and elsewhere) is a popular sport in the Middle East with millions of viewers who follow the game being played in UK and elsewhere in Europe.