A key Premier League broadcast partner has called on club bosses to probe a Saudi Arabian bid to buy Newcastle United over piracy allegations, it said on Wednesday.
The Magpies are on the verge of being sold to a Saudi-backed consortium that involves Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for around £300 million ($368 million).
It was reported on Tuesday that a non-refundable deposit of £17 million has already been paid to current owner Mike Ashley as part of the deal. The Premier League must decide if the new owners meet the criteria in its owners and directors test.
Qatar-based BeIN accuses Saudi of masterminding the pirate broadcast of BeIN output, which included EPL games, as part of a spat between Doha and Riyadh. Saudi denies the claims.
In a letter to top-flight English clubs, BeIN urges them to put pressure on league officials to investigate whether Saudi "directors, officers and other representatives" would be fit and proper to own Newcastle.
"My request is purely based on the Saudi Arabia government's role in the past and continuing theft of the commercial interests of your club, the Premier League, all its broadcast partners and football in general -- which, I think you would agree, simply cannot go ignored," wrote BeIN Media chief executive Yousef al-Obaidly.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake."
BeIN alleges that following a breakdown in relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies in 2017, Riyadh established a bootleg sports TV operation that stole BeIN's feeds.
The streams were then rebroadcast on satellites controlled from Riyadh, BeIN says. Though the satellite broadcasts have ceased, BeIN maintains that the set-top boxes distributed by the "beoutQ" piracy operation still enable access to illegal sports broadcasts using internet technology.
BeIN's intervention follows a warning from rights group Amnesty that the Premier League "risks becoming a patsy" unless it takes a serious look at Saudi Arabia's human rights record in connection with the proposed takeover.
Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of "sports washing", saying the government uses sport to distract attention from its human rights record.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Lindsey Parnaby