Torturing and executing government critics, punishing women’s rights and human rights activists, and repressing the LGBT community? Small stuff. Pirating Burnley vs Crystal Palace? Unacceptable.
Qatar-based beIN Sports has called for the Premier League to consider blocking the proposed £300 million takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi-backed consortium, due to illegal streaming. Because everyone knows the Premier League really doesn’t like being hit in the wallet.
The chief executive of beIN, Yousef al-Obaidly, this week wrote to the chairmen of all 20 Premier League clubs (via The Guardian), saying “the potential acquirer of Newcastle United (has) caused huge damage to your club’s and the Premier League’s commercial revenues”.
The letter continues: “When the Premier League season re-commences in the coming months, all of the league’s broadcasters’ content will continue to be readily and illegally available via the IPTV streaming functionality on the beoutQ set-top-boxes which were sold in significant quantities in Saudi Arabia and the broader MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.”
BeoutQ is a pirate TV service that’s allegedly based in Saudi Arabia, which has been involved in a long-running feud with beIN Media Group, as well as the BBC, Sky and Wimbledon.
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A multitude of broadcasters and sports authorities have repeatedly called for beoutQ’s immediate closure, but Saudi Arabia has rebuffed criticism in various ways, at one point claiming that beoutQ isn’t based in the Kingdom, but in South America.
al-Obaidly has also written to Richard Masters, the chief executive of the Premier League.
Of course, these aren’t the only concerns that have been raised about Newcastle’s prospective new owners. Amnesty International has also written to the Premier League.
“This is more than just a financial transaction – it’s an image-building exercise that draws on the prestige of the Premier League and the passion of Newcastle United’s fanbase,” Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty UK, told Masters in a letter.
“Whether or not this deal goes ahead, we’re calling on Newcastle United staff and fans to familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it.
“At the very least, the Premier League should make a clear statement over how its owners’ and directors’ test has been applied in this case, and what assessment has been made of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership.”
Despite all of the above, sources working on the deal are reportedly confident that the Premier League will give it the green light.