The Newcastle United takeover was back on the agenda on Tuesday, not that it has ever really been off the agenda these past few months…
The much talked about WTO (World Trade Organisation) report was set to be made public this afternoon.
On Tuesday morning, a BBC Sport journalist sparked a media frenzy only hours before the publication of this WTO report.
BBC Sport’s Ian Dennis tweeting this: ‘The WTO report says “should the Premier League approve the Newcastle takeover by KSA, it would be acting inconsistently with its own decisions and factual evidence as part of the WTO proceedings”
It was all a bit strange because it very definitely isn’t the place of the WTO to be specifically commenting on the Newcastle United takeover, or passing judgement on what the Premier League should or shouldn’t be doing.
Very embarrassing for the BBC Sport journalist in question, who swiftly then deleted his Tweet after somebody must have a word in his ear to tell him he’d been given duff information.
So what then was the outcome of the WTO report with regard to the NUFC takeover when it was eventually published on Tuesday afternoon?
Well there was one clear winner BUT it was neither those wanting the Newcastle United takeover to be approved NOR those wishing to see it blocked.
The only obvious victor was the media because, confusingly for many Newcastle fans, everybody was claiming they had won – whether they want to see the takeover succeed or fail, whether they were seeing things from a Saudi or Qatar / beIN Sports perspective.
A big part of the problem was that many of those in the media had built this WTO report release up as something that would decide the Newcastle United takeover, one way or another. As though the WTO were deciding whether or not the NUFC takeover should be allowed, rather than something that could potentially influence the Premier League decision one way or another and to whatever degree – anything from all but meaningless up to overwhelmingly persuasive.
In reality, I always thought most people would end up disappointed in the end result, a bit like trying to explain the game of cricket to somebody in terms of the fact that you can play a match for five days and still not end up with a winner.
Maybe fair to say that today’s WTO report ending up making Qatar the moral victors but more a case of winning a battle rather than the war.
The WTO report concluded that beoutQ piracy had occurred within Saudi Arabia and was facilitated by people within Saudi Arabia. However…it didn’t direct accusations at the Saudi Arabian state.
Plus, as per above, it predictably didn’t mention the Premier League, Newcastle United, or the Saudi PIF.
The focus of the report was all about the protection of IP (Intellectual Property) and it wasn’t about deciding whether the Saudi government had been directly involved in beoutQ.
Personally, I think that the Premier League probably had to be seen to be waiting until this WTO report was published before announcing anything regarding the Newcastle United takeover.
However, after today’s report I don’t see the NUFC deal failing, although clearly there are some journalists desperate to claim that it now will (although they do tend to be the ones who have constantly published articles claiming the takeover will be blocked, for a variety of reasons).
What I would take from today’s WTO report is that more than deciding on guilt and any potential punishment handed out, it was more to do with about ensuring that as far as possible problems in the future are avoided as much as possible.
This has always been part of a wider long running political battle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Newcastle United and the Premier League mere pawns, interested bystanders that could be affected.
As I state above, I think that the NUFC takeover will go ahead and that if the Saudi PIF do take control of Newcastle United, it would almost certainly help ensure that problems in the future are less likely to happen. Plus of course we have the possibility of the next Premier League rights for the region seeing the Saudis as very interested bidders when that process starts in 2021.
Looking on the positive side, I hope now that with the WTO report at last published, we might now be able to proceed to an announcement on the takeover in the near future.
(The full WTO report can be read HERE if you are really keen!)