HomeNewsGovernanceFootballUnited Kingdom

Tebas accuses Saudis of ‘stealing football’

Florian Lejeune of Newcastle United celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match at Everton (by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Javier Tebas, the president of LaLiga , is appealing to the English Premier League to judiciously examine the planned £300m ($378m/€345m) takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabian investors.

Citing the pirating of football broadcasts by Saudi Arabian service beoutQ, Tebas fired a broadside at Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The sovereign wealth fund is behind a £300m takeover deal for the English club, in a transaction being brokered by Amanda Staveley, the Dubai-based financier. It is believed the deal is now undergoing the league’s owner’s and director’s test.

Tebas told the Associated Press: “European football rights – including Newcastle rights – have been stolen systematically by BeoutQ for three years.

“Now the Saudis want a seat at the top table — forgetting the damage they have done through BeoutQ. If football leagues and clubs do not protect their intellectual property, they have nothing. LaLiga couldn’t be clearer about this — stealing the football broadcast is stealing football.”

The United States Trade Representative office, the government organisation responsible for advising US trade policy, has kept Saudi Arabia on its priority watchlist for what it sees as a failure to address “long-standing IP concerns”. The USTR has specifically referenced beoutQ’s operation. Saudi Arabia is one of 10 nations on the US priority list, which also includes China, Indonesia and India, among others.

The Premier League has been part of a joint push by global sports rights-holders, including LaLiga, trying to shut down beoutQ.

Tebas said the Premier League had to reflect on the “damage” that the pirating of broadcasts has caused the sport before approving any deal.

The deal is also under scrutiny because of Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record, and the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.

In January, Tebas said: “The Saudi Arabian government has a policy whereby they improve the image of the government through sport — whitewashing their image. We should not forget what happened in the Turkish embassy.

“We should not forget these things. This happened in an embassy…and this is very serious, at least in my opinion. Money is not the only thing that matters.”