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26 May, 2020 19:10

On the rocks: Saudi-funded takeover of Newcastle United in doubt as WTO report links Gulf State to pirate TV operation

On the rocks: Saudi-funded takeover of Newcastle United in doubt as WTO report links Gulf State to pirate TV operation

A World Trade Organization report has determined that there is a direct link between alleged illegal television network beoutQ and the Saudi Arabian state in a move which casts doubt on the impending takeover of Newcastle United.

The £300 million ($370 million) sale of the Premier League club to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is headed by Saudi Arabia's de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman, was understood to be at an advanced stage.

But that has now come into question following the WTO statement which says that the country is behind the television network which is said to broadcast live sports without the required licences. 

This comes after the Premier League, FIFA, UEFA, La Liga and other sports bodies have filed legal action against beoutQ for streaming illegal content.

The WTO's report, which won't be released until June, finds a link between Saudi Arabian government and beoutQ, while also stating that the Premier League took legal action against the country, reports The Guardian.

This link has been consistently denied by Saudi Arabia, as well as those involved in the mooted takeover.

Also on rt.com Saudi shake-up: How the Newcastle takeover will send shockwaves through football

The WTO determination raises significant questions as to whether the Saudi-led fund will be granted permission to purchase Newcastle United, with each club sale in the league subject to an owners' and directors' test which can be failed if it is found that a prospective purchaser has committed a crime in another country that would also be considered a crime in the United Kingdom. 

Rules also dictate that a takeover bid may be disqualified if it is found that inaccurate information was submitted to the Premier League as part of the process. 

The consortium has been in discussions with Newcastle United and its current owner Mike Ashley for around two months.

They formally requested approval from the Premier League to advance the takeover - a process that takes around 30 days - but have yet to receive clearance. The Saudi consortium has stated to the media that they remain confident that an accord can be struck.

The takeover has been condemned by watchdogs such as Amnesty, who criticize Saudi Arabia's record on human rights and say that the state continues to plow money into efforts to "sportswash" the country's reputation. 

Also on rt.com Newcastle 'have made good offer to Pochettino' to become new manager as Saudi takeover nears completion