Newcastle United has voted against a new $500m television deal between the Premier League and Qatar-based beIN Sports, as acrimony around a collapsed Saudi takeover of the English football club continues to reverberate.
The world’s most valuable domestic football competition has announced it has signed an extension to its broadcast deal with Doha-based beIN to screen matches across the Middle East, covering the three seasons between 2022 and 2025.
According to people briefed on a meeting between Premier League clubs on Thursday, the latest deal is worth $500m, making it among the competition’s biggest international broadcast contracts, with money shared between the league’s 20 member clubs.
These people added, however, that Newcastle, owned by British retail billionaire Mike Ashley, voted against the transaction. This was a futile gesture, as only 14 club votes are needed to approve any measure and the beIN deal passed 19 to 1.
Newcastle and the Premier League declined to comment.
The club’s solitary dissent to the Middle East broadcast contract comes after its proposed £300m sale to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, collapsed earlier this year.
BeIN had lobbied hard against the Newcastle takeover due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in beoutQ, a pirate internet network that has been streaming Premier League matches — the rights to which the Qatari-based broadcaster owns.
BeoutQ emerged in 2017 shortly after Riyadh and three Arab allies cut diplomatic and transport links to Qatar. Saudi Arabia has consistently denied involvement in media piracy.
Multiple people briefed on the events said beoutQ was the primary reason the Newcastle deal became stuck in the Premier League’s regulatory process around takeovers.
The club has appointed lawyers seeking to challenge the Premier League in an effort to resurrect the takeover, but the Saudi-led consortium has publicly backed away from the deal.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, beIN’s owner who also runs France’s Paris Saint-Germain football club, said: “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.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “We are pleased to agree a significant deal with beIN Sports, who are a longstanding and valued partner.”
Broadcast contracts have powered the Premier League’s growth in recent years, with the league saying last year that it held multiyear TV deals worth an overall £9.2bn.
However, the pandemic has led to setbacks to the business, including returning £330m in rebates to broadcasters to compensate for lost action during spring lockdowns and the termination of a $700m digital streaming deal in China.