NEWCASTLE’S stalled Saudi takeover could be back ON – after the Gulf state finally buckled in its piracy battle with neighbouring Qatar.
The Saudis and Qataris have been locked in a brutal dispute for more than four years after Doha-based beIN Sports had its feed across the Middle East hijacked.
A Saudi-owned duplicate, calling itself beOUTQ, used set-top boxes available across the region to distribute the beIN feed, costing the Qataris multi-millions in revenues.
While beOUTQ was closed down after two years in 2019, it was cited by the Prem and other sports authorities including Fifa, Uefa and the IOC.
The beIN feed was still blocked by the Saudi authorities.
A World Trade Organisation report accused the Saudi government of direct involvement as part of the feud with Qatar that led to the six-nation blockade of the Doha regime.
Prem chiefs refused to rule on the planned Saudi-led £350m takeover of Newcastle as they investigated the links between ruler Mohammed Bin Salman and the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, which was to be the 80 per cent owner of The Toon.
That stalling saw St James Park owner Mike Ashley launch legal proceedings against the Prem, with an arbitration hearing due to be held in January.
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But the news that the Saudis have capitulated, reversing the block on the beIN feed and agreeing to settle the company’s legal cases, including a £750m investment arbitration claim, could be the game-changer Newcastle fans have waited for.
Sunsport understands that the U-turn has been greeted with relief and delight in Qatar.
More critically, beIN, which has recently confirmed a new £370m three year deal for Prem rights in the Middle East and North Africa region until 2025, will no longer object to a potential Saudi-led buy-out.
That would eliminate the commercial opposition which has been the main plank of the Prem stance.
It could see Prem chief executive Richard Masters coming under renewed pressure on the human rights aspect of a potential sale following the murder and dismemberment by Saudi agents of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
But Prem chiefs have previously insisted that such issues were not necessarily a concern, as they did when Amnesty International accused Thai Thaksin Shinawatra of multiple human rights abuses when he was cleared to take over Manchester City in 2007.
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