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Opinion

Are they beIN Serious?

5 months ago
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It emerged on Tuesday night that the Chief Executive of beIN Media Group, Yousef Al-Obaidly, had written to the chief executive of the Premier League Richard Masters and the 20 clubs of the Premier League, demanding that the proposed Newcastle United takeover by the Saudi backed consortium be blocked, due to issues regarding piracy.

The beIN Media Group, who own beIN Sports, have for three years been trying to stop Saudi Arabia state satellite operator Arabsat providing a platform for the pirate network beoutQ, who transmit Premier League matches.

Now beIN Sports are understandably angry about this. If you paid £500million for TV rights and found out that your broadcasts were being shown illegally in your region, via a satellite operator in a country you share a border with, then you would want to kick up a stink if that country was now going to own a club which you are paying to broadcast.

Now, what the letter seems to forget to mention is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been involved in a bitter political dispute, which amonst other things has led to Saudi access to Qatar based television channels and providers (including Al-Jazeera) to become all but non-existent.

This shows what the biggest challenge will be for the Premier League. Money.

When someone is paying that amount of money to the League, I am sure some clubs will take notice, beIN Sports is the Premier League’s biggest overseas broadcast partner and delivers top quality coverage (bar a certain pair of former Sky Sports presenters who hate Newcastle and were fired for sexual harassment of colleagues).

Hypocrisy?

What we have here is a political issue between the two countries being played out.

You have one country which has been allegedly sport-washing in Qatar, arguing that another country which is sport-washing in Saudi Arabia, arguing over the morals of “intellectual property theft”. To be fair, if I knew someone was not paying to watch Saint-Maximin step overs, I would be angry too, some of them are genius.

I would say that if FIFA are not willing to take the World Cup off Qatar, then should the Premier League block the Saudi purchase?

Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 despite allegations of slave labour, the death of hundreds of labourers building the stadiums for the World Cup and the failure of the construction companies to pay the families compensation for the death of their sons on their sites, never mind issues surrounding LGBT rights, women’s rights and huge levels of alleged bribery in the bidding process.

Change on the Horizon?

Should the proposed takeover be completed in the next few weeks, you suspect that the Saudi backed consortium will address the issue of beoutQ fairly promptly. Saudi Arabia wants a seat at the Premier League table and I would imagine the ability to broadcast matches legitimately themselves.

Once at the table, I imagine the Saudi government will quickly shut down beoutQ because it is now in their interest to do so. The manner of how they address it…Either they buy TV rights themselves, or they come to an agreement with beIN Sports, but I suspect it will be addressed.

The Premier League will be coming under pressure for many reasons surrounding the Saudi Newcastle United takeover, which are of bigger significance than the TV deal. However, the fit and proper persons tests which form the reported last part of the process with the £17million deposit paid and contracts exchanged, does have limited scope to deal with issues such as beoutQ and the concerns raised in the more important (in my view) letter from Amnesty International. The tests are for the individuals who will be directors at the club, not the political situation of the state the money comes from.

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