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Saudi businessman 'offered substantial sum' to PL in bid to solve Newcastle takeover

Saudi businessman 'offered substantial sum' to PL in bid to solve Newcastle takeover
© Reuters
The offer was made during takeover talks at Newcastle which have since fallen through.

Saudi Arabian businessmen offered a substantial sum to the Premier League for the rights to screen matches in the kingdom in a bid to solve the piracy issue which it was feared could derail the Newcastle takeover, the PA news agency has learned.

The Saudi public investment fund, which was set to take an 80 per cent stake in the Magpies until the consortium it was part of withdrew its offer on Thursday, is understood to have assembled a group of private businessmen from the country to put together an offer to take on the national rights for the league.

Qatar-based beIN SPORTS is the Premier League rights holder for the Middle East and North Africa region, including Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis argued that because beIN's licence to broadcast in the kingdom had been suspended since 2017, it could not be considered a legitimate broadcaster there.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has refused to comment on the Newcastle takeover process throughout
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has refused to comment on the Newcastle takeover process throughout (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Premier League is understood to have dismissed the offer out of hand.

The league declined to comment, as it has throughout the takeover process.

The offer to pay to broadcast matches in Saudi Arabia came after the pirate broadcaster beoutQ illegally screened a huge variety of sporting events, including Premier League games.

A report by the World Trade Organisation in June found the Saudi state had facilitated beoutQ's activities and had failed to do enough to protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of numerous rights holders across the globe, including the Premier League.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia appealed against the findings of the WTO report.

Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners were part of the consortium looking to buy Newcastle
Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners were part of the consortium looking to buy Newcastle (Victoria Jones/PA)

Amanda Staveley, whose PCP Capital Partners would have taken a 10 per cent stake in the club had the deal gone through, told The Times on Thursday that: "The piracy issue was not an issue but we tried to resolve it anyway."

It had previously been reported that the Saudis were looking to establish a pan-national broadcast company to make a challenge to beIN SPORTS for the next rights cycle from 2022, but PA understands an offer was also made for a deal to begin during the existing terms of beIN's contract.

Earlier this month the Saudi state permanently revoked beIN's licence to broadcast in the kingdom, which meant there was no legal means to watch Premier League football there.

The Premier League and other rights holders package the MENA rights in the way they do for technological as well as commercial reasons, because of the issue of trying to successfully geo-block satellite signals from neighbouring countries.

It is understood that had the Premier League taken up the Saudi offer, it would have been in breach of its deal with beIN.

The parties involved in the proposed takeover released a statement on Thursday announcing they had withdrawn their offer, blaming among other things the "prolonged process" involved.

It is understood the Premier League, which was conducting its owners' and directors' test on the bidders, had concerns that the Saudi PIF was too closely linked to the kingdom's rulers.

Alan Shearer says Newcastle fans will be angry at what has unfolded at the club
Alan Shearer says Newcastle fans will be angry at what has unfolded at the club (Nick Potts/PA)

Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday morning: "There's a lot of anger, understandably so, and a massive amount of disappointment (among Newcastle supporters).

"They want their club to compete, they want their club to move forward, that's why yesterday was such a disappointing day."

Current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley remains "100 per cent committed" to the sale, managing director Lee Charnley told Sky Sports.

The Saudi PIF is committed to investing in sport as part of the country's Vision 2030 project, and while it has walked away from this deal it is understood it remains committed to the idea of investing in sports generally despite this setback.

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Today's Olympic highlights header

Tuesday's key events


DIVING
· Team GB duo Jack Laugher - silver medallist in Rio - and James Heatly take part in the men's 3m springboard semi-final (2am), and will hope to qualify for the final later in the day (7am)

ATHLETICS
· Two Britons are involved in the women's long jump final, but Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers have their work cut out to get a spot on the podium (2.50am)
· Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the world record just last month, goes for gold in the men's 400m hurdles final. USA's Rai Benjamin is expected to be his main challenger (4.20am)
· Great Britain have three representatives in the final of the women's 800m, with Jemma Reekie having perhaps the best chance of a medal (1.25pm)
· A mouth-watering women's 200m final sees Elaine Thompson-Herah go for the prestigious sprint double after claiming the 100m crown. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Namibia's Christine Mboma and USA's Gabrielle Thomas are expected to be her main competitors (1.50pm)

SAILING
· The rescheduled women's skiff 49er FX (4.33am) and men's skiff 49er (5.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races
· Defending champion Giles Scott bids for a second successive gold in the Finn class medal race (6.33am)
· There is another medal chance for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17 medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Joe Fraser takes part in the parallel bars final, kicking off the final day of artistic gymnastics (9am)
· USA superstar Simone Biles, who has been forced to pull out of all of her finals so far, is on the starting list for the beam final as she bids for a fifth Olympic gold (9.50am)

FOOTBALL
· The men's semi-finals take place, with Mexico taking on Brazil first up (9am)
· The winner of that first semi-final will face either hosts Japan or Spain (2pm)

CYCLING
· Laura Kenny will look to win a third straight Olympic team pursuit gold medal. Team GB take on United States in their heat (7.44am), with the gold medal race later that day (9.26am)
· Laura's husband and fellow Olympic legend Jason Kenny will also look to continue his huge success in the men's team sprint - an event he has won gold in at every Games since 2008. Team GB will first need to get through the men's qualifying (7.58am), with the gold medal race ending the session (9.44am)

BOXING
· Pat McCormack will be looking to achieve his dream of Olympic gold when he faces Cuba's Roniel Iglesias (11.05am)

> Today's schedule in full
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