Newcastle fans can dare to dream of £340m takeover with peace treaty between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to pave way for deal

NEWCASTLE fans are daring to dream again as it emerged the piracy row that wrecked a £340million Saudi Arabian takeover of their club looks set to end.

With little to shout about on the pitch, the Toon Army is pinning its hopes on seeing the back of hated owner Mike Ashley through events taking place thousands of miles away.

If, as expected, a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Qatar earlier this month brings an end to the piracy this could pave the way for the deal to go through – if the Saudis are still interested.

It’s been a year since news first broke about the proposed buyout.

The Wall Street Journal story sent Newcastle fans into a tailspin with fevered speculation about the amount of money their new oil-rich owners would be spending in the summer transfer window.

Supporters went to bed dreaming of Mauricio Pochettino and Lionel Messi – only to wake up realising they were stuck with Ashley and lacklustre manager, Steve Bruce.

The fans endured seven long months of pain before the buyout eventually collapsed, mainly due to Saudi Arabia’s piracy of Premier League schedules across the Middle East.

Premier League bosses felt it was a bit like someone asking to join an exclusive club of 20 members, only for the owners to discover the person had been quietly stealing from the other 19.

Now, in particular, with a pandemic robbing clubs of millions in gate receipts, TV money is crucial for survival especially for the smaller clubs.

Look no further than how Southampton is being hampered by the pandemic in how much it can offer its star striker, Danny Ings, to stay at the club.


It was only when Premier League bosses sought reassurances that the Saudi leadership behind the piracy was not connected to the sovereign wealth fund seeking to buy the club that the Arab consortium pulled out.

So what has changed?

On January 5, a peace deal was signed which ended a three-year-long blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia which had been the cause of the piracy.

As well as stopping flights and cutting off borders, the 2017 boycott also put an end to trade between the countries.

This included the sale of TV satellite decoder boxes for transmissions by beIN Sports.

The Doha-based broadcaster owns the regional rights not only to the Premier League but also the World Cup, Champions League, Serie A, La Liga and Wimbledon.

So the only way that Saudi sports fans were going to be able to watch the crown jewels of world sport was if the authorities pirated them – which they did on an industrial scale.

Legal actions launched by not only beIN but also the Premier League, Fifa, Uefa and Serie A failed to stop the rogue channel, called beoutQ, from continuing its illegal transmissions.

The broadcasting was done with the tacit blessing of the Saudi government, according to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation.

Despite this, Fifa president Gianni Infantino still felt able to laugh with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as they watched the opening match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a tournament in which every game was pirated.

Given the business model of organisations like the Premier League is predicated on the ability to market and sell protected rights, it was bit like the head of football’s world governing body sticking two fingers up to the football world.

Uefa boss, Alexander Ceferin, was not so friendly saying the 'illegal piracy of live football, particularly on the scale of that being carried out by beoutQ, poses a significant threat to European football’.

Despite the piracy continuing to drain the funds of the European leagues – the Bundesliga has lost a £200m deal in the Middle East due to continued piracy – Infantino still to chose appear in a slick PR campaign put out by the Saudi Ministry of Sport earlier this month.

A three-minute video shows Infantino taking part in a ceremonial sword dance and raving about the hidden delights of the desert kingdom.

This is wholly at odds with statements put out by the organisation he heads, which have included complaints that the “piracy continues unabated' and requests that the 'Saudi Government take swift and decisive action against beoutQ'.

When asked if Infantino had used the meeting to raise the illicit broadcasting operation, Fifa said the main purpose' of the two-day tripwas to 'witness the signing of the historic declaration between the member states of the Gulf Co-Operation Council'.

The ending of the blockade has been accompanied by all the rights noises about Saudi Arabi and Qatar resuming diplomatic relations, allowing families to visit each other across borders and resuming trade.

All lawsuits between the two countries would be dropped – including a £1billion one from beIN seeking damages for the piracy.

Earlier this week reports emerged that beIN Sports’ programmes were once again being viewed in cafes and restaurants in Saudi Arabia.

The Qatar broadcaster was quick to respond that nothing had changed – because nothing happens in Saudi Arabia unless the authorities decree it so.

The ball is firmly in Riyadh’s court to end the piracy and, with it, the Magpie fans’ endless wait about whether this takeover can finally go ahead.

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