Some concerning developments emerged late last night, with chief executive of BeIN Sports writing to the Premier League in a bid to block the Saudi PIF’s £300m takeover of Newcastle United due to concerns over pirate broadcasts.
BeIN Sports insist that Saudi Arabia should be held to account for their involvement in a pirate network which illegally broadcasts Premier League matches – and The Times claim it could pose a ‘significant threat’ to any deal.
Martyn Ziegler – The Times’ Chief Sports writer – reported on the letter sent by Yousef Al-Obaidly who, as well as being chief executive for the Middle East media giant (one of the league’s major media partners), is also on the board at Paris Saint Germain along with BeIN Sports Media chairman Nassar Al Kelaifi.
Here’s a snippet from the Times’ unsettling piece, followed by what Al-Obaidly has to say as he voiced his major concerns:
“The potential acquirer of Newcastle United [has] caused huge damage to your club’s and the Premier League’s commercial revenues”.
“The legacy of the illegal service will continue to impact you going forward.
“When the Premier League season re-commences in the coming months, all of the league’s broadcasters’ content will continue to be readily and illegally available via the IPTV streaming functionality on the beoutQ set-top-boxes which were sold in significant quantities in Saudi Arabia and the broader MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region.
“Furthermore – given the crippling economic effect that coronavirus is having on the sports industry – this is all happening at a time when football clubs need to protect their broadcast revenue the most.”
There are a lot of issues between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They are political and financial issues that are not in the interests nor the business of Newcastle United fans, or indeed relevant when it comes to the Premier League owners tests and checks.
However, this particular complaint is due to the on-running issue of live football streaming piracy on the Saudi channel BeoutQ, which has been described by BeIN Sports top brass as “the most sophisticated illegal streaming platform in the world”.
Due to trade sanctions between the two countries, BeIN Sports do not broadcast in Saudi Arabia, despite being the sports media powerhouse of the Middle East.
Now while this is definitely relevant, it’s certainly something that PIF and the Premier League will have considered. After all, are Staveley and Co. really going to have paid a non-refundable £17m deposit and all parties have spent so much money and time on the deal if they knew this beIN Sports case was capable of scuppering the whole deal? I doubt it.
The Premier League have actually tried, and failed, to start legal proceedings against the Saudi state-owned satellite provider Arabsat for streaming the games via BeoutQ.
In short, this spat all boils down to money, which the Premier League never turns down. The opinions of several sports journalists is that this could actually end the illegal streaming in Saudi Arabia.
So, while it is an issue to deal with and something we could’ve seriously done without for the sake of all of our hearts, it isn’t expected to stop the deal going through.
It’s also worth pointing out that Al-Obaidly has also been brought up on corruption charges relating to the bidding process for the 2019 World Track Championships. Then of course we all know the sinister nature of Qatar securing the 2022 World Cup.
Hopefully it’s all just a storm in a tea cup brought about by rich men with bruised egos.