Saudi Arabia says it has permanently terminated the broadcast licence of beIN Sports, which had been barred from broadcasting in the kingdom since mid-2017, over political disputes with Qatar. Saudi’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) said that it was also fining beIN Sports 10 million riyals (€2.34m) for practices “that restrict competition”.
GAC’s decision follows an investigation into complaints accusing beIN of “monopolistic practices” during the 2016 European Football Championship.
In response, the broadcaster contended that the decision was arrived at through “sham legal proceedings” that repeatedly violated beIN’s due process rights at every turn and that the decision itself was not only contrary to international law, but also the most basic principles of competition law. “The decision is nonsensical on every single level, banning beIN for packaging its rights in the standard way that sports and entertainment broadcasters all around the world do, and indeed as other broadcasters active in the Saudi market also do. Moreover, the very idea that permanently banning a leading competitor from a market could in any way promote competition is plainly absurd,” it argued.
It also questions – as it has for three years – how Saudi citizens can watch Premier League matches legally in Saudi Arabia with this ‘permanent’ ban on the Premier League’s licensed broadcaster. “Or indeed how Saudi citizens can legally watch most major international sport, and how this fits into Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision,” it adds.
beIN also notes that what it describes as Saudi Arabia’s state-sponsored pirate channel, beoutQ, bundled rights and removed competition for nearly three years; yet the only action the Saudi authorities have taken is to deliberately block FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League and others from taking legal action nine times – in complete breach of WTO rules. “Saudi Arabia’s relentless failure to pay any heed to the rule of law or international norms is only harming sports fans in Saudi, and sports organisations all around the world,” declared a beIN Media Group spokesperson