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Saudi Arabia is about to buy N. United by lifting Qatar ban

Saudi Arabia’s prolonged takeover of the English Premier League football club Newcastle United is imminent which means ending Mike Ashley’s 14 year ownership of the club.

The takeover deal by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund (PIF) is reportedly worth £305million ($415 million) and it could even be signed within the next 24 hours. 

One of the main obstacles for the takeover deal was Saudi ban on Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports, the international company holding the rights to broadcast the Premier League across the Middle East.

On Wednesday, Qatari beIN Sports said that Saudi Arabia will soon lift the ban on it. 

“We have been informed that Saudi Arabia’s 4.5 year illegal ban on beIN SPORTS is going to be reversed soon,” the Qatari media group said in a statement.

“We have also been approached by Saudi for them to settle our legal cases, including our $1 billion investment arbitration,” beIN’s statement added.

A court case, brought by beIN under international arbitration and in which the company claimed over $1 billion in damages against Saudi Arabia, is still pending. The arbitration will be held in London.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) suspended beIN channels in 2017 and “permanently canceled” the broadcaster’s licence last year amid a bitter dispute between Riyadh and Doha, which was resolved in January.

Already, many cafes and restaurants in the Saudi capital Riyadh have already started using satellite dishes to show games on beIN Sports channels since the diplomatic rift ended.

Last year, the proposed takeover collapsed with the consortium saying that the “prolonged process” and “global uncertainty” had “rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable.”

Newcastle’s owner initiated legal proceedings against the Premier League earlier this year over the aborted takeover attempt that have been adjourned until early 2022.

If the deal is signed Riyadh will join the petrostates’ race in football pitches as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar previously purchased Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, respectively.

UAE-backed Manchester City has won three of the last four Premier League titles. Qatar’s Paris Saint-Germain recently signed Lionel Messi, widely seen as the best player ever.

Premier League authorities faced pressure to block the transaction over human rights abuses and alleged broadcast piracy in the kingdom. To get around that problem, the BBC reported, the league could consider the PIF as separate to the Saudi state, even though Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) chairs the investment vehicle.

According to a recent survey by the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust, 93.8 percent of its members were in favour of the takeover.

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