Movies & TV

Saudi to lift ban on Qatar's beIN Sports: source

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 7, 2021 shows Japan's midfielder Wataru Endo (L) marked by China's forward Wu Lei during the 2022 Qatar football World Cup Asian Qualifiers match between China and Japan, at the Khalifa International stadium in Doha.(Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

DOHA: Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on Qatar-based beIN Sports, a source said Wednesday, potentially smoothing the way for a Saudi takeover of England's Newcastle United football club.

Saudi Arabia banned the major broadcaster, which holds the rights to the English Premier League (EPL) and other top competitions, in 2017 at the start of a diplomatic and transport blockade of Qatar which ended in January.

"Saudi Arabia's 4.5-year illegal ban on beIN is going to be reversed," a source close to the matter told AFP.

The source added that Riyadh was seeking to settle Qatar's $1 billion arbitration claim over pirate broadcasts to Saudi audiences by the BeoutQ network.

No reaction was immediately available from Saudi officials.

Riyadh denied any involvement with BeoutQ, but its failure to take action against the channel was a key reason for the EPL's decision last year to effectively block a £300 million ($370 million) Saudi bid for Newcastle.

A Competition Appeals Tribunal last week heard that the EPL was "improperly influenced" by English top-flight clubs and beIN in making its decision.

An arbitration hearing is to be held in January.

A consortium featuring Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers withdrew its offer for Newcastle in 2020 following a long wait for the EPL to approve the deal.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over allegations it supported extremists and was too close to arch-rival Iran, accusations that Qatar denied.

Ties have improved markedly this year.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, was last month pictured grinning with Qatar's emir and the UAE national security advisor in beachwear.

Shortly afterwards, a football friendly was announced between Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain and players from two top Saudi clubs in Riyadh next year.

Last December, the EPL and beIN announced a new rights deal worth a reported $500 million for the Middle East and North Africa region that will run until 2025.

British newspaper reports said 19 of the 20 EPL clubs supported the deal, with Newcastle the only club to vote against.

 

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