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The New Arab

Saudi 'pirate channel' accused of stealing World Cup broadcasts

Saudi Arabia has been broadcasting World Cup matches on its beoutQ channel [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 June, 2018

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Saudi Arabia's attempt to sidestep the Qatar blockade by stealing content from Doha-based sports channel beIn has been condemned by football governing bodies.
Football governing bodies Fifa and Uefa have accused Saudi Arabia of "stealing" live World Cup broadcasts it does not have the rights to air.

The associations have threatened to take action against the pirate channel, which is streaming content which should be exclusive to Qatar's beIn sports channel. Doha-based beIn owns the rights to air all 64 World Cup matches in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The beoutQ channel has been broadcasting every match of the tournament so far, according to The Independent, despite Fifa stating it has not given it the rights, saying in a statement it was "exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights".

Uefa on Thursday joined its condemnation, claiming the channel illegally distributed the Champions League and Europa League throughout the 2017/18 season.

"Uefa considers that illegal piracy of live football, particularly on the scale of that being carried out by BeoutQ poses a significant threat to European football," Uefa said in a  statement.

"The protection of our intellectual property is key to Uefa and we will take the necessary steps to address the issue in order to enforce and protect the rights granted to BeIN Sports, including through engaging with relevant satellite carriers in the region. For the avoidance of any doubt, BeoutQ has received no rights whatsoever from Uefa to broadcast any Uefa event."

Qatar's beIN channel is the exclusive rights holder in the Middle East and North Africa region for the European championships and has also accused BeoutQ of stealing its World Cup feed and broadcasting it as its own.

In May, the New York Times revealed the "brazen bootlegging" operation. It said beIN officials traced the beoutQ signal back to the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.

"Decoder boxes embossed with the beoutQ logo have for months been available across Saudi Arabia and are now for sale in other Arab-speaking countries. A one-year subscription costs $100," it reported.

Oman has banned the import of decoders that would allow viewers to watch pirated versions of World Cup matches, officials said last month.

In June last year, Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt launched a blockade against Qatar, cutting all diplomatic and trade ties with the tiny Gulf state after accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Qatar has strongly denied the allegations and has withstood economic sanctions 12 months on.

While the illegal broadcasting has allowed football fans in Saudi Arabia to enjoy the World Cup, they would have also seen the national squad lead a losing streak for Middle East teams in the tournament. Despite qualifying for the first time since 2006, Saudi Arabia lost 5-0 to Russia in the opening match of the tournament and then 1-0 to Uruguay on Wednesday.

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