Saudi Arabia ends beIN Sport ban, opening door for Newcastle takeover
A development that could see Mike Ashley finally bought out
Saudi Arabia has finally lifted its four-year ban on beIN Sport from broadcasting in the country - a development which could have implications for the potential takeover of Newcastle United.
Qatar-based beIN are the Premier League's official broadcast partner in the Middle East, but the ban prevented them from operating within Saudi's borders.
Qatar filed a complaint that Saudi were blocking their membership to the World Trade Organisation three years ago. beIN have since launched an international investment arbitration against the Kingdom for damages in excess of $1 billion. They also accused the country of failing to take effective action against alleged copyright infringement of beIN’s content by beoutQ, a pirate broadcaster.
However, as The Athletic reports, Saudi Arabia’s decision to reverse its ban of beIN Sport will now see beoutQ’s operation turned off and beIN Sport’s international investment arbitration end.
Essentially, this means that the broadcaster will no longer be banned from operating in the territory, clearing the runway for the takeover backed by businesswoman Amanda Staveley and the Public Investment Fund (PIF): Saudi's sovereign wealth fund which owns stakes in everything from Facebook, Disney and BP, to the Bank of America.
Last year, Staveley - who played a key role in Qatari and Abu Dhabi families investing in Barclays and whose company, PCP Capital Partners, helped Sheikh Mansour buy Manchester City - pulled out of a £300m takeover deal, alongside the Reuben brothers (David and Simon), who would have held a 10% of the club, respectively.
Now though, with this huge obstacle out of the way, there is no doubt confidence among the consortium that the takeover will happen in the near future and Mike Ashley's 14-year ownership of the club will finally come to end.
While more than 93% of Newcastle United fans said they want the deal to go through, the more complicated questions surrounding sportswashing, Saudi's human rights record, whether the Premier League will allow the PIF to be a director at the club, and more still remain.
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