According to The Guardian, the WTO is scheduled to publish a final 130-page report on its investigation in mid-June which rules that the Saudi government is behind beoutQ. The paper also says that the Premier League received an early copy of the report and made submissions against Saudi Arabia as a part of the process.
The English league has been vocal in its opposition to beoutQ and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in it, with it recently telling the US Trade Representative’s Annual Report that the country is “a centre of piracy.”
The report serves as the latest damning indictment of the Kingdom which has continued to protest its innocence with regards to beoutQ, and the clearest since a September 2019 Al Jazeera news report which identified the outfit’s base in the al-Qirawan district of Riyadh.
Following calls from sports leagues and broadcasters, the WTO last year announced an investigation into the matter and now it has come to a definitive conclusion that – despite ongoing denials from the country’s government – Saudi Arabia is in direct breach of international law.
As a result of this damning ruling, the takeover of English football club Newcastle United by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has been put in further doubt.
Any potential Premier League owner or director must pass a test which can be failed if a crime has been committed domestically or internationally, and that false, misleading or inaccurate information cannot be included.
With this WTO ruling, it seems almost impossible that the PIF will pass the test though the consortium insists that it is “very hopeful” of the takeover being approved.
As opposed to Manchester City owner City Football Group, which maintains some political distance from founder Sheikh Mansour’s Emirati home, the PIF is far more integrated with the Saudi government and has controversial crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman as its chairman.
The deal has been widely criticised as ‘sportswashing’ by critics due to the kingdom’s poor human rights record, with Amnesty International writing that the league “risks becoming a patsy”.
Yousef al-Obaidly, CEO of Qatar broadcast group beIN group, previously sent a letter to the Premier League clubs’ chairmen to highlight the impact that Saudi Arabia has had not only on itself but to the league. In it, he condemned the takeover and said that “the legacy of [beoutQ] will continue to impact you going forward.”
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