It's becoming clearer that if the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United fails, it will be down to television piracy and not an horrific human rights record.
Both FIFA and UEFA have welcomed a World Trade Organisation (WTO) report on the Saudi Arabia-based piracy operation known as beoutQ on Tuesday.
The WTO completed an impartial, independent and detailed 1.5 year evaluation of Saudi Arabia's conduct in relation to beoutQ's piracy of football broadcasts.
BeoutQ has streamed live coverage of everything from the FIFA World Cup, to Formula One and Grand Slam tennis championships – without having any rights to do so.
The existence of beoutQ is the result in the fracturing of the relationship between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 2017.
A few months later, beoutQ was launched as a website, pirating live sports coverage primarily from the Qatar-based beIN Sports.
In its final judgement, the WTO "has conclusively ruled that the Government of Saudi Arabia has actively promoted and supported the beoutQ pirate operation since the beginning and has wholly breached, and is breaching, its obligations under international law to protect intellectual property rights.
They conclude, "The WTO ruling calls upon Saudi Arabia to immediately bring itself into compliance with its international law obligations."
In their statement welcoming the WTO findings, UEFA said:
"UEFA welcomes the World Trade Organisation report and its conclusions. What is clear is that beoutQ’s broadcasts constitute piracy of UEFA’s matches and as such, are illegal.
BeoutQ was hosted on frequencies transmitted by Arabsat and was promoted and carried out by individuals and entities subject to Saudi Arabia’s territorial jurisdiction.
Those seeking to follow beoutQ’s example should be in no doubt that UEFA will go to great lengths to protect its property and support its partners, whose investment in football helps it to remain the world’s most popular sport from grassroots to elite level.
Piracy not only threatens that investment but also the existence of professional sport as we know it.
Today’s ruling shows clearly that no-one involved in audio-visual piracy should consider themselves above the rule of law."
Similarly, FIFA made the following release:
FIFA agrees with the WTO panel’s recommendations and demands that KSA takes the necessary steps in order that it conforms to its obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement with immediate effect in order to protect legitimate media rights partners, such as BeIN, and also football itself.
The WTO panel’s recommendations are clear and piracy of football matches is an illegal activity and will not be tolerated on any level.
In response, the Saudi government found their own positives within the WTO findings, saying, "The panel also found that Saudi Arabia's comprehensive actions were “taken in time of… other emergency in international relations,” based on extensive evidence presented to the WTO tribunal by Saudi Arabia regarding Qatar's violations of regional agreements and commitments to renounce support for violence and unrest in the region.
BeIN Sports owns Premier League television rights in the Middle East, and has already warned the Premier League of the Saudi government's potential investment in Newcastle.
A takeover by a sovereign wealth fund headed by Amanda Staveley and funded by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is currently in the hands of the Premier League.
While there's no proven link between the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PiF) and beoutQ, BeIN Media Group's legal summary of the WTO findings issues a warning.
In that summary, they say the Premier League allowing the takeover of Newcastle would see them, "acting inconsistently with its own decisions and factual evidence as part of the WTO proceedings and also its submissions to the US government, the European Commission and others over the past three years"
The former fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi wrote to both Newcastle fans and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters voicing her concern regarding the potential £300million takeover.
Khashoggi was murder inside Istanbul's Saudi Consulate in October of 2018.
Hatice Cengiz warned Newcastle supporters that, "It is not a lifeline for your club, but rather the worst possible outcome for all of us decent and caring people."
While Masters told Sky Sports on Tuesday that he could not discuss the takeover, he did acknowledge the correspondence with Ms. Cengiz.
He said, "her representations are being fully considered in our process", before adding, "I have great sympathy with her because of her current situation but as you know I can't make any comments about anything to do with any takeover.