Saudi Arabia has barred beIN Sport – the Premier League’s official Middle East broadcasters – from operating in the country. It means there is now no legitimate way to watch English top-flight football in a nation whose public investment fund is trying to complete a takeover of Newcastle United.
The proposed £300m buyout is awaiting Premier League approval. “The decision is nonsensical on every single level,” said Qatar-based beIN. The Saudi government claims the broadcaster has “abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices”. Premier League lawyers have been assessing the proposed Newcastle takeover deal for three months. The league’s owners and directors’ test looks into the background of prospective club owners. The UK government has been urged to block the takeover – which is 80% financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – until it investigates alleged TV piracy in the country. The rights to show Premier League games in the Middle East belong to beIN Sports, which is in the middle of a three-year deal worth £400m. In June, the World Trade Organization ruled that Saudi Arabia helped breach international piracy laws in relation to the broadcaster beoutQ, which has been accused of illegally showing a range of professional sport, including the Premier League. Saudi Arabia has always denied aiding the beoutQ operation and has insisted there is no link between its government and the alleged piracy.