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Premier League lobbied US over Saudi piracy claims


London (AFP) – The Premier League wrote to the US government in February urging it to keep Saudi Arabia on a watchlist because it said the country “remained a centre for piracy”.

The revelation comes as the league considers a takeover of Newcastle which would reportedly involve the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) taking an 80 percent stake in the club.

Prospective new owners must pass the Premier League’s owners and directors’ test, one strand of which relates to criminal activity.

The league has come under pressure from rights group Amnesty International and the fiancee of murdered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to block the takeover due to Saudi Arabia’s poor record on human rights.

The Premier League’s actions in relation to the takeover are also under scrutiny because it has previously been a critic of pirate broadcaster beoutQ, which operates out of Saudi Arabia.

Qatar-based BeIN accuses Saudi of masterminding the pirate broadcasting of BeIN output, which includes Premier League games, as part of a spat between Doha and Riyadh. The Saudis deny the claims.

In a letter from the league to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) dated February 5 of this year, the Premier League complain about a “failure to take action” against the pirates by the Saudi government itself.

“Saudi Arabia remains a centre of piracy, impacting rights-holders from around the world,” the league’s letter added.

“In view of this long-standing situation, the Premier League respectfully requests that USTR maintain Saudi Arabia’s position on the Priority Watch List.”

The USTR has kept Saudi Arabia on its watch list and confirmed in a report published on Wednesday: “The United States continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia.”

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