BeoutQ under microscope again as AFC warns 'unauthorised' Asian Cup broadcasters
The Asian Football Confederation said at the weekend that it has sent ‘cease and desist’ notices to 'unauthorised broadcasters' of the Asian Cup tournament presently under way in the United Arab Emirates, in a likely reference to the beoutQ pirate broadcaster that is alleged to be based in Saudi Arabia.
In a brief statement, the AFC said that it had been “made aware that unauthorised broadcasters may attempt to screen the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 matches in contravention of the AFC broadcast agreements,” and warned that: “The AFC takes any breaches of its commercial agreements very seriously and will also continue to take whatever action is appropriate to protect the interests of all its commercial partners.”
The statement did not name beoutQ, but among the national teams competing in the UAE is that of Qatar, which is involved in a bitter political and economic dispute with other Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with the small Gulf state having repeatedly and vehemently refuted allegations that it supports terrorism in the region.
Rights for the tournament are held by BeIN Sports, the Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster, across the Middle East and North Africa, including the UAE.
BeoutQ’s piracy of the broadcasts of BeIN Sports has previously affected a wide range of sports properties, including soccer’s Fifa World Cup, Uefa Champions League, English Premier League, Spanish LaLiga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1, plus the organisers of tennis’ grand slams, men's ATP and women's WTA and the FIA, the governing body for motor sports, including Formula 1.
Saoud al-Mohannadi, the AFC’s Qatari vice-president was initially prevented from travelling to the UAE, having been denied permission to board an Oman Air flight from Muscat after officials claimed his name was not on a list at the destination airport in Abu Dhabi.
However, he was then allowed to catch a later flight, arriving in the UAE on Friday.
In December, the World Trade Organization approved a request for the establishment of a WTO panel to rule in a case filed by Qatar against Saudi Arabia’s alleged harbouring of beoutQ, with the move appearing to represent a step forward in BeIN’s attempts to find a resolution to the piracy case.
The decision to approve the request for the establishment of the panel was taken during a session of the WTO’s dispute settlement body in Geneva, despite an apparent bid by Saudi Arabia (a WTO signatory) to stall the process by claiming that entering into dispute settlement negotiations with Qatar threatened its “essential security interests.”
Separately, BeIN is seeking $1 billion in damages in an investment arbitration against Saudi Arabia, citing evidence from three independent companies that beoutQ is being distributed by the Riyadh-based satellite TV provider Arabsat.
BeIN has not hesitated to make explicit its allegations that beoutQ’s piracy is politically-motivated, and that the state of Saudi Arabia is behind it.
BeIN claims to have been “unlawfully driven out of the Saudi market and subjected to what has been described as the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen” as beoutQ continues to offer coverage of sports events to which BeIN holds exclusive rights.
In public statements, Saudi Arabia has strongly denied involvement in beoutQ.
For a Sportcal Insight feature on BeIN’s fight to suppress beoutQ and the rising phenomenon of states using TV piracy to fight proxy wars, click here.