Saudi Arabia lifts its four-year ban on beIN Sports

News could have significant ramifications for a Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle

Saudi Arabia has lifted its four-year ban on beIN Sports which not only means that Premier League, Uefa and Fifa matches will soon be broadcast legally in the country again but could also have significant ramifications for a Saudi-backed Newcastle United takeover.

Last year a proposed £300 million deal hit the rocks over the Premier League’s view that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which was hoping to acquire an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle, was de facto the Saudi state.

Although that is the subject of a legal dispute which will be resolved in an arbitration hearing in January, the news on Wednesday removes a significant barrier to any potential takeover.

The Qatar-based beIN has been a major opponent to the Newcastle deal, pointing out to Premier League clubs that the ban in Saudi Arabia and the piracy of its content was doing massive damage to sports rights holders.


Last year the beIN chief executive, Yousef al-Obaidly, wrote to Premier League clubs accusing the Saudis of the “facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights – and in turn your club’s commercial revenues – through its backing of the huge-scale beoutQ pirate service”.

That followed a ruling from the World Trade Organisation which found the Saudi state to be in breach of international law by allowing an illegal streaming service beoutQ to operate in the country.

After weeks of negotiations the Saudis have agreed to allow beIN Sports back and committed to removing all pirate websites when informed of them by beIN. It is also understood that Saudi Arabia is also in active discussions over beIN’s claims for damages totalling more than $1 billion due to piracy.


The announcement follows a gradual thawing of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, reflected in Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, posing for a photograph with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month, wearing shorts and smiling.

Other potential barriers to the Newcastle takeover remain, the most significant being any link between Saudi Arabia and the PIF. The Premier League wants guarantees that the Gulf kingdom will not be a director of the club.

Human rights groups, appalled at the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, have also voiced concerns at any deal. However, the Premier League's owners' and directors' test does not concern itself with human rights.

– Guardian