Riyadh welcomes FIFA action on World Cup pirate broadcasters
Saudi Arabia on Thursday welcomed FIFA's move towards legal action in the country over pirate broadcasters illegally showing World Cup matches, while alleging the kingdom has been victim of a smear campaign.
Football's governing body said on Wednesday it was preparing to take legal action over pirate channel beoutQ broadcasting games during the month-long tournament.
"FIFA urges the authorities of Saudi Arabia and of the different countries where these illegal activities have been observed to support us in the fight against piracy," the body said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia said it had made "relentless efforts" to tackle beoutQ and welcomed FIFA's decision to get lawyers in the kingdom onto the case.
"If FIFA has legitimate claims supported by reliable evidence, it can expect to receive justice at the hands of the independent courts of our nation consistent with" Saudi law, the country's media ministry said in a statement.
Qatar's beIN Sports had urged FIFA to take action after the broadcaster said its exclusive rights to show matches in the Middle East had been compromised by beoutQ.
Last month, Saudi Arabia said it has confiscated more than 12,000 pirating devices in the country.
Doha-based beIN secured rights to broadcast all 64 World Cup matches from Russia across the Middle East and North Africa region to 24 countries.
It said it had been unable to reach a deal with Saudi Arabia to show the matches.
Doha-based beIN alleges that since last October "beoutQ" - using a signal from Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat - has been illegally transmitting its broadcasts.
These have appeared not only in Saudi Arabia but also Morocco, Jordan and countries further afield, according to beIN.
Saudi Arabia's media ministry said "false and unfair connections" had been made between Riyadh and beoutQ's illegal broadcasts, accusing beIN of a "smear campaign".
The kingdom "reiterates its calls to FIFA (and other rights holders) to distance themselves from beIN Sports and find alternative licensees for broadcasting sports" in the Middle East and North Africa.
The piracy issue has surfaced at a politically sensitive time in the Gulf, with Qatar boycotted by its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, in a highly fractious 13-month long diplomatic and economic dispute.
BeIN had urged FIFA to move as it claims it is unable to secure legal representation in Saudi Arabia because of the boycott.