WTO report could be holdup in Newcastle Takeover!

As we move into month three of the takeover, yes it has ONLY been that long. You start to wish for a resolution either way, and for the Premier League to make decision on something, that is currently stopping Newcastle United looking like a football club. Mike Ashley has essentially handed back the keys, moved out, and now the club stands empty until it is all resolved.

The only aspect that seems to be holding the deal up now is the issue of piracy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As we all know the issues stem from geopolitical issues between Saudi and Qatar, and the banning of beIN in the Kingdom, which led to the subsequent channel BeoutQ starting shortly after.

No-one as yet has been able to tie the Saudi Government to the running of BeoutQ, something the Qatari’s feel to be true. This is where the World Trade Organisation (WTO) comes in. The Qatari’s asked the WTO to look into the piracy issue some three years ago. That report has since been finalised, and has been handed to the Premier League, and you would think the Qatari officials that initially asked for the report to be started.

It must be said that any WTO report is more like an inquest than a trial. They will be looking at the cause, not to point guilt or convict somebody. This is where the report can be useful to the Premier League, and not necessarily Newcastle Fans.

It is important to stress that it will only be the names given to the Premier League that will be looked into, at this time there is nothing to say that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is on the list of names, and may just be the body of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) represented by governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, so this is just conjecture at this time!

There have been suggestions that this report will be made public on or around the 16th June, when everything that has been found will be there for all to go over with a fine tooth comb. Could this be why the Premier League seem to be holding out on an announcement? Can it be used for something the Premier league can hide behind? Possibly…

Lets look at this from a positive light first though. Any WTO report is circulated between member states first, and as has been reported the Premier League. At the time of writing there have not been any further legal proceedings brought against the government of Saudi Arabia on the back of the report. If this report had implicated anyone named on the ‘Owners and Directors Test’ (ODT) you get the feeling the Premier League would have rejected the possible make-up of Newcastle’s new board room.

This report would have to implicate not only PIF, who as we know from a brilliant article from Football Law (read here) that PIF are legally separate from the Saudi Government, but also implicate those on the list the Premier League and their lawyers are investigating as part of the ODT.

This is where I feel the Premier League can use their report to their advantage, if as been reported the findings of the report do not look good for Saudi! It can be argued that the Premier League are ready to pass the test, but want to use the opportunity to sort out the piracy issue in the Gulf. This report would lend them to ask PIF and its representatives to use their connection with the Saudi Government to once and for all end the piracy issue, and to get them around the table with Qatar and beIN sports.

There have been reports that Saudi will bid for TV rights, but seeing as they can’t do that until 2021, a compromise must be found in the mean time. This is the Premier Leagues chance to find that work around for the time being. A decision that could benefit everyone!

Now the negative! This is obviously as fans the one thing we don’t want to happen, but must prepare that it may be an option!

The Premier league could use the report and it’s details to reject the takeover. Not on any legal grounds, as PIF and those named would have to be convicted in a court of law for the consortium to be rejected on the convictions clause. However the Premier League do take into account dishonesty, and whether during the proceedings, when asked questions if the Owners-in-waiting have given any false information.

If the report, and in my opinion it is a big IF, names anyone or implicates anyone on the ODT of having run or funded piracy in the Kingdom, and they have vehemently denied all association with BeoutQ, the Premier League could deny their takeover on dishonesty. This would no doubt be a blow to Newcastle fans, the PCP led consortium, but a win for beIN sports and all those that have campaigned against the takeover since papers went in at the beginning of April.

In all honesty I don’t think the negative will happen. The Premier League have had this report for almost three weeks, and I believe if it was incriminating towards the name son the ODT in anyway the approach would have been rejected by the Premier League before now.

I feel the Premier League is using this to their advantage, and looking to guarantee a bigger payday down the road. If the League can get a commitment from PIF to push the issue with the Saudi Government, it gives the Premier League a massive win in stopping the piracy issue. It also means they will start a bidding war for the TV rights. Yes Saudi have the money to win, but don’t underestimate beIN’s will to keep ahold of the Premier League TV rights! Each side could drive the price when bidding opens in 2021.

This could also stop any legal proceedings after the conclusion of the ODT. When/If the Takeover is approved and we have a definite list of who will have a say in the running of the club and are named on the documents given to the Premier league’s lawyers, if none of those names are implicated or named on the report, there is no reason to hold them accountable. The Premier league can simply say “This is why….”.

So I am going to get our least favourite sayings and buzz words in now:

Will we have to wait till next week? in my opinion yes!

Is a decision imminent? if you count a week as imminent, yes!

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