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Newcastle takeover: Mike Ashley gets boost to sell club to Saudi-led consortium |  Football news

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been encouraged by the Premier League’s decision not to request that Saudi Arabia be kept on the US government’s piracy watchlist this year.

Ashley remains committed to clearing a £ 300million Saudi takeover of the club and is involved in an arbitration over the issue with the Premier League.

Sources within the consortium say they remain committed to a takeover if the arbitration is in the club’s favor.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the 80 percent dominant partner in the consortium seeking to buy Newcastle. The apparent link between the PIF and the Saudi state was widely pointed out as one of the main obstacles to the takeover’s progress last summer, not least given the country’s track record on piracy. The president of the PIF is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The Premier League described the Gulf Kingdom as a “center of piracy” in a submission to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in February 2020 and a World Trade Organization report later in the year said the Saudi government had facilitated the activities of a now defunct pirate. beoutQ network.

However, in its last submission to the USTR in January this year, which was seen by the PA news agency, the Premier League did not ask that Saudi Arabia be kept on the watch list – even if the other UEFA and LaLiga rights holders have done so. .

The Premier League declined to comment Sky Sports News on the letter, which says the league chose in its 2021 submission to focus on internet copyright, calling for keeping China on the priority watch list and adding Iraq and Hong Kong to it.

Other sources claim the league is no less angry with Saudi piracy and has by no means let its guard down, but Ashley’s camp has been encouraged that Saudi Arabia has been shut out. of submission.

Although the Premier League says its target is online piracy in its 2021 submission, USTR Special Report 301 released in late April says it “continues to remain concerned about high levels of online piracy in Arabia Saudi “.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley still wants to sell the club

The report, which keeps Saudi Arabia on the US government’s priority watch list, adds that illicit streaming devices “are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia.”

However, the report acknowledged some of the measures taken by Saudi Arabia in the fight against piracy and theft of intellectual property.

There is no legitimate way to watch Premier League football in Saudi Arabia, with regional rights holder beIN SPORTS based in Qatar still banned from broadcasting in the country despite the end of the blockade between the two nations in January.

The Premier League struck a new deal with beIN in December last year covering the Middle East and North Africa region from 2022 to 2025. The deal is expected to be worth around £ 350million over three seasons , with the broadcaster praising the league’s dedication to tackling piracy as it renews itself.

The PA news agency reported last summer that Saudi businessmen had made a rival offer to the Premier League to broadcast matches there, on the grounds that beIN was not recognized in Saudi Arabia. The offer was reportedly rejected out of hand by the Premier League.

The consortium, led by Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and also including the Reuben brothers, withdrew from the takeover in July last year, blaming among other things the “protracted process” after waiting 17 weeks for approval.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah the following month to say his organization had made “a clear determination” in June 2020 of the entities involved in the takeover and called for Additional Information.

Masters said the consortium disagreed that any of the entities identified by the Premier League would fit into the criteria and that the league then proposed that the case be decided by an independent arbitral tribunal.

The case is now subject to arbitration, with Ashley hiring lawyers last September. Documents relating to a separate Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) complaint filed by St James Holdings Ltd against the Premier League indicated that arbitration was due to begin in July.

The Premier League has until Friday to respond to CAT’s claim.

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