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British MP seeks evidence session into alleged Saudi piracy

A Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United is being opposed due to alleged piracy of television rights and human rights groups
A Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United is being opposed due to alleged piracy of television rights and human rights groups LINDSEY PARNABY AFP/File
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London (AFP)

The takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has hit another stumbling block as a British MP called for a parliamentary evidence session into the alleged piracy of sports broadcast rights.

Giles Watling, a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee (DCMS), has called on his group to hold an evidence session into the activities of the beoutQ network, with Premier League representatives proposed as witnesses.

BeoutQ has been the target of sports rights holders around the world for illegally broadcasting events including Premier League matches.

The Premier League released a joint statement with FIFA, UEFA and other major European leagues in September saying they had been "frustrated in our attempts to pursue a formal copyright claim against beoutQ in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Qatar-based broadcaster BeIN accuses Saudi of masterminding the pirate broadcast of its output as part of a spat between Doha and Riyadh.

Saudi has always denied it is behind the output of beoutQ.

Last month BeIN wrote to Premier League clubs saying "the future economic model of football is at stake" if a Saudi takeover was approved.

Watling wrote to his fellow committee members: "I am writing to request that the Committee holds an oral evidence session on the theft of UK sport by the Saudi-based pirate operation beoutQ, which has been stealing and broadcasting every major UK sporting competition for almost three years, including the Premier League.

"Ideally, this should be with the Secretary of State (Oliver Dowden) and representatives from the Premier League."

Dowden told the DCMS committee last month that the suitability or otherwise of the new owners was a decision for the Premier League and that the Government would not intervene.

Human rights groups have also opposed the proposed £300 million ($368 million) deal.

The fiancee of murdered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote an open letter to Newcastle fans this week asking them to reject a takeover led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Amnesty International have also written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters warning the competition risked becoming a "patsy" if it did not raise serious questions about the takeover.

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