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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Qatar's beIN Sports blocks football broadcasts over Saudi piracy dispute

Saudi Arabia's beoutq channel is accused of illegally using Qatar's beIN Sports broadcasts [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 June, 2020

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Qatar-owned beIN Sports displayed blue screens rather than long-awaited Serie A matches due to a long-standing copyright dispute with Saudi Arabia, which it claims runs a pirate system named beoutq
Fans of Italy's Serie A around the world were deprived of the chance to watch the league's return from the coronavirus shutdown after beIN Sports pulled its coverage from the air over a dispute with the league, the broadcaster confirmed on Monday.

Subscribers to the Qatar-owned network who tuned in to watch Saturday's comeback match between Torino and Parma were greeted with blue screens and that continued for Sunday's more high-profile matches featuring Atalanta and Inter Milan.

"No Serie A matches are being broadcast on beIN Sports' entire global network," a spokesperson told AFP.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further, other than to say our legal and public position has been consistent and well documented for three years."

Viewers were also unable to tune in to league leaders Juventus' clash with Bologna on Monday. "For legal reasons, beIN has had to take the unfortunate decision to not broadcast Serie A matches," the broadcaster tweeted.

The comments refer to a long-standing dispute with Saudi Arabia, which it claims is behind a pirate system named beoutq, that shows its images via satellite.

BeIN's president Yousef al-Obaidly has criticised both Serie A and the Spanish football authorities for their relationships with Saudi Arabia despite the allegedly state-sponsored pirating of one of its key international broadcasters.

The group holds the rights to Serie A until 2021 in 35 areas including France, Turkey, 24 Middle Eastern and North African countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, and claims to generate over half of the league's international revenues.

Last week the World Trade Organisation largely agreed with beIN, saying in a report the Saudi authorities had done nothing to prevent, nor punish the piracy.

The rights dispute is also part of a broader conflict between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, who cut diplomatic ties with and imposed an economic blockade on Doha over claims the country was to close to Iran. 

The blue screens that were presented to disappointed fans also come as beIN and Serie A prepare to negotiate broadcast rights for upcoming seasons.

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