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Opinion

Is this a solution to the interminable Newcastle United takeover?

4 months ago
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The Premier League’s Chief Executive Richard Masters is between a rock and hard place with the Newcastle United takeover.

The rock, is that he must protect BeIn Sports broadcast rights, help them combat piracy and get legal redress for piracy claims, even though Saudi Arabia won’t allow BeIn piracy claims to be heard in their courts.

The hard place, is that Masters must evaluate the legitimacy of the PIF takeover bid. PIF are confident that they are in full compliance with Premier League rules, a confidence they have retained throughout, as they are legally registered as a separate entity to the Saudi state.

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This being so, ultimately it will be on the veracity of the PIF bid that the Premier League will have to make their decision on as to whether the Newcastle United takeover can go ahead, as legally the takeover and the piracy charges are two separate issues.

Might there be a way in which the Premier League can both protect its stakeholder while also advancing their claim to have a legal ruling on piracy heard in Saudi court?

Perhaps there is.

If the PL wrote into its legal conditions for placing a bid for future broadcast rights, that no prospective bidder can have any charge of piracy outstanding in a court of law, it would compel the Saudis to either (a) allow BeIn to take legal action in Saudi Arabia or (b) for Saudi to disqualify itself from bidding for TV rights.

The attraction of this to the PL is straightforward.

Firstly, it defuses the situation in the here and now and allows all parties to diplomatically look to the rights renewal in 2022 as the cut off point for a resolution to their various grievances.

If Saudi does allow BeIn legal recourse, Masters will have won an important victory for his stakeholder.

If not, the Saudi state (or any Saudi company or citizen either singularly or in partnership) cannot bid for the broadcast rights. It might be imagined that in such an eventuality, the rights will be retained by BeIn.

Masters will have been seen to uphold his existing partners’ interests and deepened their partnership.

The Saudi ban on BeIn broadcasting in its territory announced last week might best be seen as a shot across the bows by the hardheaded Saudi state. But seeing as BeIn has been broadcasting in Saudi for the past year, it doesn’t seem a point on which the Saudis will dig in their heels long-term. This is especially true if the Newcastle sale goes through, as the Saudis will be a stakeholder profiting from a higher tender price from BeIn that broadcasting in Saudi would involve.

Crucially, all potential outcomes allow Masters to be seen to protect and advance the interests of his broadcast stakeholder.

For the Toon, the heart of all our concerns, it might allow this interminable saga to reach a conclusion, for the sale of Newcastle United to go through and for the greatest football people in the country to get their shot at the big time.

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