Saudi Arabia’s £300m Newcastle United takeover revived by truce with beIN
Saudi Arabia has signalled the end of its long-running stand-off with Qatari broadcaster beIN, in a move that could revive its £300m takeover of Newcastle United.
The U-turn would involve unblocking beIN’s channels in Saudi Arabia, cracking down on any pirating of the network’s output and settling a $1bn lawsuit, sources close to the talks said.
It is the latest development in a thawing of relations between Gulf states, after Saudi Arabia and its allies lifted a blockade on Qatar in January.
A Saudi-led consortium has previously agreed a takeover with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, only for the Premier League to hold up completion of the sale.
Saudi Arabia has blocked beIN’s signal since 2017, meaning it has been unable to show live Premier League and Champions League football in the kingdom.
During that time a shadow channel appeared in Saudi Arabia that pirated its content wholesale, called beoutQ, which the World Trade Organisation accused the state of involvement in.
The Qatari broadcaster blamed the neighbouring regime and launched legal action against it, claiming the piracy operation had cost it $1bn.
As a major funder of the Premier League through rights deals in several territories, it also argued against a Saudi buyout of Newcastle.
But beIN is expected to drop its opposition to the deal if, as expected, its three legal conditions – stopping piracy, lifting the block on broadcasting, and the lawsuit – are met.
While beoutQ disappeared in 2019, Saudi Arabia has now offered beIN assurances that it will be able to transmit its channels in the country and approached the channel to settle the legal case.