WTO publishes report ahead of Newcastle United takeover decision

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has published a damning report into allegations of TV piracy in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 6:39 pm

The WTO today drew a link between “individuals or entities” under the jurisdiction the Saudi state and beoutQ, a pirate TV station which has illegally broadcast Premier League games and other sporting events in the kingdom.

Allegations from Qatar, which is involved in a geopolitical dispute with Saudi Arabia, prompted the investigation, which was set up in late 2018.

And the findings have heap more pressure on the Premier League, which has been considering the proposed takeover of Newcastle United since early April.

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Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports has objected to the £300million deal, which is 80% funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), because of what it argued was state-sponsored piracy.

The Premier League has previously tried to get beoutQ shut down, but attempts at litigation have failed and the dispute went to the WTO.

“Qatar has established that Saudi Arabia has not provided for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied to beoutQ despite the evidence establishing prima facie that beoutQ is operated by individuals or entities under the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia,” concludes the WTO report.

PIF’s chairman is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and the link between piracy in the kingdom and the club’s prospective owners has been closely examined by the Premier League since the takeover was agreed in April.

St James's Park.

The takeover has strong support on Tyneside after 13 years of Mike Ashley as owner. However, the strongly-worded report will be troubling for the Premier League as it concludes its owners’ and directors’ test.

Amnesty International and Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, have also objected to the deal.

"We should consider ethical values, not just financial or political ones,” said Cengiz. “Money cannot buy everything in the world. So the message that will be given to people like Crown Prince is extremely important.

"There should be no place in English football for those credibly accused of atrocities and murder".

Meanwhile, Newcastle will resume their Premier League campaign with a behind-closed-doors home game against Sheffield United on Sunday. The club is 13th in the league.