Qatar is involved in a diplomatic and economic row with near-neighbour Saudi Arabia that has been running since June 2017 when relations between the two countries were severed.
Based in Qatar is beIN Sports (a sister business to newscaster Al Jazeera) and which has the undisputed rights to broadcast many exclusive sporting events, including the UEFA Champions League, top Premier League and Football Association games from the UK, as well as FIFA’s World Cup football championships over the Middle East and further afield.
However, a 10-channel pirate system, BeOutQ, broadcasting to the Middle East on Arabsat is allegedly stealing all of beIN’s output. beIN cannot mount a legal action or challenge in Saudi Arabia because it cannot find a lawyer to file charges.
Tom Keaveny, Managing Director of beIN, said last week: “The pirated signal is being transmitted by the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The UK’s Premier League says it is supporting beIN in its actions, but also says it usually works with the country where the piracy is happening, but Saudi Arabia if the actions are State-sponsored.
Now beIN has asked UEFA to start a legal action. Sophie Jordan, general counsel of beIN Media Groupd, says: “For the past 10 months, beOutQ and its Saudi backers have been illegally pirating our proprietary sports content on an industrial scale, brazenly stealing IP and making it their own. If left unchecked, this will have a dramatic and long-term impact on the grass roots funding of the sports that we all enjoy.”
With the FIFA World Cup kick-off now barely two weeks away (and with Saudi Arabia playing in the opening game against Russia on June 14th in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium) the pressure is on to curb the pirates.
“We have requested FIFA to take direct legal action against Arabsat and the indications we have show that they are behind that,” said Sophie Jordan. “We have asked FIFA to put direct pressure on the pirates.”