New legal papers raise questions over Newcastle takeover
Questions over Saudi link to BeoutQ platform which offers illegal access to sporting events
A £300m Saudi Arabia-funded takeover over Newcastle needs to be approved by the Premier League. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
New legal documents have been passed to the Premier League during the past 24 hours that raise fresh questions about whether the controversial £300 million (€342 million) Saudi Arabia-funded takeover of Newcastle United should get the go-ahead, the Guardian can reveal.
Premier League lawyers are understood to be reviewing information which is said to establish a firm link between the Saudi government and a homegrown pirate TV and streaming service which offers illegal access to sporting events – including English football, Wimbledon and the Six Nations – on the BeoutQ platform.
The new evidence means that any decision to approve the Newcastle takeover by a consortium involving Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley – which had been expected within days – is expected to be pushed back.
The Premier League will scrutinise the information to see whether it further calls into question whether the consortium passes its owners’ and directors’ test, which states that digital piracy is prohibited.
Newcastle’s prospective Saudi majority owners have denied any link to the BeoutQ piracy. The Premier League’s test says applicants must not provide “false, misleading or inaccurate information”.
Saudi Arabia has previously claimed BeoutQ originated in Cuba and Colombia. However in January the Gulf state was named in a European Commission report for its failure to crack down on the platform.
Fifa, Uefa, the Premier League and La Liga are among the sporting bodies that have attempted to take legal action to shut down the platform in Saudi Arabia, but nine local legal firms have declined to take on the copyright case.
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia remains on a US government “Priority Watch List” as one of the “notorious markets for counterfeiting and piracy”.
Recently BeIN’s chief executive, Yousef al-Obaidly, wrote to the Premier League and its clubs warning of the “danger of allowing the acquisition” given what he identified as Saudi Arabia’s direct role in BeoutQ’s “illegal actions and their direct impact upon the commercial interests of the Premier League”.
The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, urged the Premier League to consider the “damage” that BeoutQ’s pirating of broadcasts had caused the sport before deciding on the Newcastle takeover.
Amnesty International has also asked the league to consider blocking the takeover because the fund is overseen by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, saying he has been involved in a “sweeping crackdown on human rights”.
The Premier League refused to comment when contacted by the Guardian. Sources close to the deal say they remain “very hopeful” of a confirmation this week and claim Project Restart is the only possible delaying factor.