Saudi Arabia may be entering the bidding for Germany’s Bundesliga rights in the Middle East, in the latest move to make new investments in international sport and confound rival Gulf state backed media.
Germany’s top division is currently in exclusive talks with beIN Sports to renew the Qatar-based network’s $250 million five-year deal, which runs out at the end of this season.
But the FT reports that a representative for the Saudi state has contacted Bundesliga seeking to acquire the Middle East rights.
The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, effectively managed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), is also leading a proposed £300 million (€332m) bid for England’s Newcastle United Football Club.
That deal must pass the Premier League’s ‘fit and proper person’ test, something complicated by the World Trade Organization ruling last week that the Saudi government has “infringed” international trade agreements with its backing of beoutQ, that has been streaming content rightfully owned by Qatat’s beIN.
Saudi Arabia has denied involvement but, as it has closed in on Newcastle, its IP authority has said it will now get tough on pirate sites.
This week the Bundesliga announced that European pay-TV network Sky and online service DAZN would pay €4.4 billion to screen matches in Germany for four years from the 2021-22 season. The domestic rights deal was €200 million less than its previous contract, in the first sign that the market for live sports has weakened because of the coronavirus crisis.