Football bodies condemn Saudi channel for telecasting AFC Asian Cup illegally

Sajith B Warrier

Bengaluru, January 23: All the major international football bodies as well as some of Europe's leading leagues have come down heavily on Saudi Arabia's private television channel beoutQ for airing pirated content.

The football bodies are also pursuing legal action in Saudi Arabia against beoutQ which they say has broadcast content whose exclusive TV rights in the Middle East belong to Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sport, which is headed by Paris Saint-Germain owner Nasser Al Khelaifi.

The FIFA, UEFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the world, European and Asian football bodies, joined the Premier League, Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga as they issued a joint statement condemning pirate television channel beoutQ and vowing to defend their intellectual property rights.

"Collectively we, as rights-holders in various football competitions, condemn the pirate entity beoutQ, which continues to abuse the operations of rights holders and legitimate broadcasters through its persistent and illegal screening of events for which it has made no effort to secure the rights; the latest example of which is the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019," a joint statement said.

The various football governing bodies said they would work with partners and "relevant authorities" to enforce intellectual property rights.

The statement did not mention individual countries or regions.

"The activities of beoutQ are a clear and flagrant breach of our intellectual property rights. beoutQ's piracy harms not only us, as rights holders, but also our legitimate licensees and, ultimately, the fans of our competitions. Money raised from the sale of TV rights helps us to support the participants, as well as to develop and grow the sports of which we are guardians from the grassroots up. Piracy kills that investment.

We will work closely with partners and relevant authorities to enforce and uphold our intellectual property rights and put an end to this widespread piracy issue for everyone's benefit," the statement adde.

BeoutQ emerged in 2017 after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar which it accused of supporting terrorism, something Doha denies vehemently.

The channel is widely available in Saudi Arabia. But Riyadh says it is not based there and authorities are committed to fighting piracy.

The AFC had already announced that that it was taking legal action in Saudi Arabia against beoutQ for illegal broadcasts of the AFC Asian Cup, while the Premier League said last week it had appointed legal counsel to take action in Saudi Arabia against the channel.

Earlier, FIFA had also said that it would pursue legal action against beoutQ after the illegal broadcast of last year's World Cup 2018 in Russia, but details of the case have not yet been made public.

Meanwhile, the Al Khelaifi-led beIN Media Group has launched a website to publish its ongoing investigations into the illegal activities of beoutQ.

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