PREM clubs delivered a £367m two-fingered salute to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley as they agreed a new three-year deal with Qatari-based broadcaster beIN Sports.
The deal, to run until the end of the 2024-25 season, comes after League bosses became embroiled in a public row with Ashley over his proposed sale to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Newcastle were the only one of the 20 clubs to vote against confirming the new deal at the “shareholder” meeting of the 20 clubs.
But with the other 19 teams – including Saudi-owned Sheffield United – backing the deal, it scuppered any realistic short-term chance of the Toon takeover being resurrected.
Ashley was desperate to complete the £350m deal with the Saudis.
League bosses declined to ratify the sale after the World Trade Organisation backed complaints that the Saudi state had orchestrated the “piracy” of the beIN feed via the illegal beOUTQ operation.
beOUTQ, which also hijacked beIN’s coverage of events including the Champions League and Wimbledon, saw set-top converters using the Arabsat satellite also owned by the Saudis.
Prem chiefs demanded “appropriate information” from the Saudi-led consortium, which included the Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley.
That led to the Saudis officially withdrawing their offer, amid claims from Ashley – fiercely dismissed by the Prem – that it had been rejected by the League’s Board.
Ashley has since launched a legal case which has so far not progressed to a court date.
Saudi government officials had floated the prospect of bidding for a Saudi-only deal but the Prem was resolute that its “MENA” contract – for the Arabic-speaking Middle-East and North Africa – should remain across all 24 countries.
And unless the Saudi government unblocks the beIN feed, which is currently banned in the Gulf state, it appears inconceivable that a takeover of a League member would go through.
The new beIN deal is on the same terms as its current contract, which runs out at the end of next season, with Prem chiefs delighted to have confirmed a lucrative arrangement despite the global pandemic.
Prem chief executive Richard Masters said: “We are pleased to agree a significant deal with beIN SPORTS, who are a longstanding and valued partner.
“They have an outstanding track record of delivering top quality Premier League content across all its platforms.
“Our clubs have millions of passionate fans across the Middle East and North Africa and beIN has played an important part in promoting the Premier League and helping engage those fans with our clubs and players.
“We look forward to continuing our fantastic partnership.”
And beIN boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi, also the President of Paris St Germain and a member of Uefa’s executive committee, twisted the knife in Saudi wounds as he added: “This deal demonstrates that rights-holders who do the most to protect their intellectual property, also do the most to protect the value of their media rights.”
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