World’s football bodies urge Saudi Arabia to stop pirate TV service | Media

The world’s biggest football authorities, including those who run the Premier League, World Cup and Champions League, have called on Saudi Arabia to take action to stop a sophisticated, homegrown pirate TV and streaming service that is illegally broadcasting matches internationally.

The strongly worded letter from the exasperated sports bodies – including Fifa, Uefa, Germany’s Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A as well as the Asian Football Confederation – comes after almost 18 months fruitlessly attempting to mount a legal challenge in Saudi Arabia to block the service, called beoutQ.

“We collectively condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing theft of our intellectual property by the pirate broadcaster known as beoutQ and call on the authorities in Saudi Arabia to support us in ending the widespread and flagrant breaches of our intellectual property rights,” the authorities said in a joint statement.

The sporting bodies have said that nine legal firms in Saudi Arabia have failed to take on their copyright theft case and that they are now being forced to seek other means to shut down the broadcaster.

“We have reached the conclusion, regrettably, that it is now not possible to retain legal counsel in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is willing or able to act on our behalf,” the statement continued. “We see no alternative but to pursue beoutQ and a solution to this very serious problem of piracy by other means. We request that the Saudi ministry of culture and the Saudi government take swift and decisive action against beoutQ.”

The illegal service had a surge in popularity after making global headlines for pirate broadcasting the entire 2018 World Cup. Earlier this month the All England Lawn Tennis Club condemned beoutQ for illegally streaming Wimbledon worldwide for a second year running. The BBC and Sky have also previously spoken out about the issue of piracy of their programming.

The beoutQ service is transmitted internationally on 10 channels by the Saudi-headquartered satellite firm Arabsat, which counts the Saudi state as its largest shareholder, and also offers streaming.

The pirate service was launched in 2017 when Saudi Arabia mounted an economic boycott of Qatar. Initially pirating the feed of Qatar’s beIN Media Group, the owner of beIN Sports and the film studio Miramax, and taking the name beoutQ, it was seen as proof that Saudi Arabia was directly targeting its neighbour.

In February, beIN Media, which has 55 million pay-TV customers worldwide, decided against renewing its five-year contract with Formula One saying that the impact of the piracy meant it had to look hard at which TV rights it could afford. It has spent billions on rights content including the Premier League, Champions League, World Cup, NBA and NFL.

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