DUBAI: Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia will soon lift a ban on it, removing a key obstacle behind the collapsed takeover of Premier League soccer club Newcastle United by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund (PIF).
beIN holds the rights to broadcast the Premier League across the Middle East but Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) suspended its 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.
Saudi Arabia's response to cases of unauthorised broadcasting of Premier League games in the country was a key issue raised by critics of a proposed £305 million bid from the PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers to buy Newcastle United from British businessman Mike Ashley in April 2020.
"We have been informed that Saudi Arabia's 4.5 year illegal ban on beIN SPORTS is going to be reversed soon," an emailed statement from beIN Media Group said.
beIN, which counts Saudi Arabia as its biggest market in the region, said on Wednesday that the kingdom's ban was the TV channel's "singular objection" to the Newcastle takeover.
The proposed takeover collapsed last year with the consortium saying that the “prolonged process” and “global uncertainty” had “rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable.”
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 was ended.
"We have also been approached by Saudi for them to settle our legal cases, including our US$1 billion investment arbitration," beIN's statement added.
A court case, which has been brought by beIN under international arbitration rules and claimed over US$1 billion in damages against Saudi Arabia, is still pending. The arbitration will be held in London.
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.