The Premier League asked the United States government to keep Saudi Arabia on its piracy watch list before beginning checks on Newcastle United’s Saudi-led takeover, but the issue is not expected to scupper the £300million deal.
It was in February that the League wrote to the US Trade Representative (USTR) and stated that illegal streaming of top-flight matches via the Saudi-based beoutQ broadcaster posed a ‘significant risk’ to their revenue, and in turn the quality of the competition.
The Premier League is already under pressure from Qatar-based BeIN Sports – a licensed broadcast partner – to block the takeover on the grounds of piracy.
The Premier League wrote to the US government urging it to keep Saudi Arabia on a watch list
However, beoutQ ceased operating last August and, while the takeover is backed by funds from Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, the specific individuals involved in the consortium and subject to Premier League checks have no influence over – or ability to fix – piracy in the country.
It has been suggested that beoutQ was shut down to clear the way for the purchase of a Premier League club.
Added to that, USTR latest’s report ‘appreciated’ and ‘commended’ Saudi for its ‘developments, progress and actions taken’ against piracy.
A previous report praised their efforts to conduct public awareness campaigns and raid stores selling illegal streaming devices.
As such, sources remain confident that the Premier League will approve the deal following the completion of their owners and directors test.
It could represent an issue for Newcastle as a Saudi state fund is trying to buy the club
Sportsmail revealed this week that, should the takeover go through, Saudi Arabia are set to compete for Premier League TV rights when the tender process begins next year.
Sources suspect that beIN’s opposition to Saudi club ownership is motivated by the fear of losing their own TV deal, which cost £500m for three years and expires in 2022.
They are a longstanding partner of the Premier League and the pair have repeatedly tried to bring legal action against pirate operators in Saudi.
They have agreed a £300m takeover deal with current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley
A section of the League’s letter to USTR read: ‘A high proportion of the Premier League’s revenue is generated from the sale of exclusive audio-visual broadcasting rights. The scale and nature of online piracy, such as that committed in Saudi Arabia, continues to place this revenue at significant risk.
‘This in turn threatens the Premier League’s ability to continue investing in, and contributing to, the quality of the competition, the sport more generally, community projects and the wider global economy’.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed this week that Nasser al-Khelaifi, chairman of beIN and president of Paris Saint-Germain, will stand trial in a Swiss court in September alongside FIFA’s former secretary general Jerome Valcke as part of a corruption case linked to the attribution of broadcasting rights.
beIN Sport, the Premier League’s biggest overseas broadcasters, have also complained