FIFA has launched an attack on piracy, threatening to take action against the Saudi TV channel BeoutQ which has been illegally broadcasting the opening games of the World Cup via the Arabsat satellite.
Doha-based Qatar’s beIN Media Group holds the exclusive rights to the 20187 World Cup games in the Middle East region, but the broadcaster has been plagued by piracy following the boycot of Qatar by a number of Arab countries. Late May, beIN urged FIFA to take legal action against what it called pirate broadcasters in Saudi Arabia ahead of the World Cup. According to the Qatar media group, Arabsat facilitates satellite broadcasts by the Saudi-based piracy network, known as BeoutQ.
Last year, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have banned the sale of beIN Sports receivers, smartcards and subscriptions in their markets, paving the way for illegal broadcasts for football fans in these countries.
FIFA has now started to take action and in a statement, the football’s governing body said: “FIFA is aware that a pirate channel named BeoutQ has illegally distributed the opening matches of 2018 FIFA World Cup in the MENA region. FIFA takes infringements of its intellectual property very seriously and is exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights, including in relation to action against legitimate organisations that are seen to support such illegal activities. We refute that BeoutQ has received any rights from FIFA to broadcast any FIFA event.”
Meanwhile, Egypt has decided to broadcast 22 World Cup 2018 games, including those of the national team, on Egyptian television, even without a proper rights contract.
In response, beIN announced it was broadcasting 22 World Cup matches for free across the MENA region as millions faced missing out. But this move does not seem to have impacted illegal piracy broadcasts of the matches.
Because of these rights issues, piracy seems abundant in the Middle East, with BeoutQ now also illegally distributing Premier League matches, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup Final matches. BeoutQ broadcasts exactly the same transmission as beIN, with the same studio pundits, only with a 10-second delay and new logo.
According to the Gulf Times, BeoutQ claims to be a Colombian and Cuban venture, but investigations have shown it to be linked to Saudi companies and promoted by Saud al-Qahtani, Media Adviser to the Saudi Royal Court.
Tom Keaveny, beIN Managing Director for MENA, said: “The pirated signal is being transmitted by the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” He added that the BeoutQ operation “takes industrial scale knowledge and ability and multi million dollar funding. This isn’t someone in their bedroom.”