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Premier League taking legal action against Saudi's Arabsat in football piracy saga

The League has sent lawyers to Riyadh to crack down on the piracy enterprise [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2018

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The Premier League is to take legal action against those involved in a piracy operation to illegally broadcast football matches in Saudi Arabia, in which it implicates the kingdom itself.
The English Premier League has pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia and its satellite channel Arabsat for masterminding a mass piracy operation to illegally broadcast football matches in the kingdom over the past year.

It said there was "compelling evidence" that the Saudi channel - in which the kingdom is the largest shareholder - lent its satellite services to pirate channel beoutQ, which steals content from Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN.

The Premier League says the channel has illegally screened all 20 of the games played so far this season, however the highly sophisticated operation has been ongoing for a year.

Read more: Saudi Arabia plays dirty but cries foul anyway

In the statement, the league said it had appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia and was planning to take legal action against those involved in the operation and has written to the European Commission on the issue.

"The Premier League takes piracy in all its forms extremely seriously and is committed to working with its broadcast partners and regulatory authorities in territories all around the world to stop the non-authorised exploitation of its content."

After paying a small fortune for the broadcasting rights for English football games, beIN is the only licensed broadcaster of all Premier League matches for the Middle East and North Africa.

However following the Saudi-imposed blockade on the small gulf region, beIN was no longer available to the kingdom's 900,000 subscribers.

In its place soon appeared a brazenly named bootlegged version called beoutQ, which beIN claims uses Arabsat's signal to illegally broadcast a host of sports events including the World Cup, Wimbledon and Formula 1.

BeIn claims beoutQ is intended to mean "be out Qatar".

A Premier League spokesperson said in a statement that the group was to "take all available action" to support beIN.

BeIN has tirelessly been lobbying FIFA and other major sports bodies to take action against the piracy operation.

Sophie Jordan, beIN Media Group's Executive Director of Legal Affairs said in a statement last week: “The evidence is irrefutable:- the illegal channel beoutQ is backed by Saudi nationals and openly promoted by leading Saudi figures; it is operating with the tacit consent of the Saudi government and its World Cup pirate feeds were viewed on public screens under the responsibility of Saudi authorities across the country; it is broadcast on the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat; on a daily basis it is carrying out – in broad daylight – a mass-scale theft of highly valuable intellectual property rights."

Tom Keaveny, beIN Media Group's MENA director said, “The political games being played by Arabsat, beoutQ and its Saudi backers in stealing our content have consequences that affect the future of world sport, not just beIN SPORTS."

"BeoutQ and its Saudi backers seem to think they can operate beyond the reproach of the rule of law and the international norms that everyone else respects,” he added.

Arabsat and the Saudi authorities have always denied any involvement in the operation.

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