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Saudi takeover of Newcastle United hinges on lifting blockade on Qatar

June 8, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Newcastle United football club badge, 23 March 2019 [Kelly McClay/Flickr]

The ongoing saga in the Saudi takeover of Premier League football club Newcastle United has taken a rather surprising turn, with the completion of the deal becoming a matter of geo-politics and no longer just a sporting venture.

Following the news in April that Newcastle United, one of Britain’s most well-known football clubs, would soon become the property of the Saudis, there have been a number of twists and turns. Critics of Riyadh protested the move, including Qatari owned sports broadcaster beIN, who sent a letter to Premier League bosses warning of the “dangers” of allowing the acquisition to go ahead.

beIN, which has a deal worth $617 million with 20 English clubs in the top tier, making it English football’s biggest overseas broadcast partner, argued that the Saudis had violated Premier League rules and should therefore be blocked from purchasing Newcastle United. Doha claimed that Saudi was behind a pirate Arabic-language television network, beoutQ. The network was accused of illegally screening Premier League football matches across the Middle East and North Africa.

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These protests have threatened to scupper the move. However, according to the Mail, sources close to negotiations have said that the Saudi wealth fund bidding for the club has pledged to use its influence in government to open talks between Riyadh and Doha following beIN Sports’ protest which has threatened to derail the £300million ($373 million) deal.

Though the Saudis have denied involvement in the piracy, the consortium leading Riyadh’s takeover bid is said to have started lobbying government ministers to seek a resolution. It is also looking to strike a deal with the Qataris that would involve smoothening ties between the two feuding countries.

While sources close to Qatar said that they have not yet been contacted by the Saudi side, they insisted that major concessions would be required to secure any agreement. It is thought that the fraught relationship between the two states will be a significant hurdle to cross, but it would nevertheless present an opportunity for the Saudis to end their rift with their neighbour, to stand any chance of purchasing Newcastle United.

It is now three years since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, imposed a blockade on Qatar, claiming that it supports terrorism, a charge strongly rejected by Doha.

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