By Paul Nicholson
August 20 – The Saudi Arabian competition authority has today released a ruling that bans Qatari-based broadcaster beIN Sport from transmitting into the kingdom. The cancelling of the beIN Sport license means that the only way to view top level international football in Saudi Arabia will be illegally via the pirate channel beoutQ.
The Saudi ruling said the license cancellation was permanent and added on top a $2 million fine and a demand that beIN Sport return to Saudi Arabia “all profits made as a result of the violation”.
It is a ruling that once again throws into question Saudi Arabia’s willingness or intention to follow international business conventions and globally accepted intellectual copyright law. It is a ruling that appears to firmly back the criminal activities of beoutQ and its piracy operations – which last week were proven (again) to be based in Saudi Arabia and broadcasting unencumbered via the Saudi-owned Arabsat satellite.
The decision comes just as Saudi Arabia’s Adel Ezzat announced his intention to run for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation, handing in his resignation as head of the Saudi Arabian FA to focus on his campaign.
With the AFC having just agreed a new multi-year $2 billion+ marketing agreement and with the beIN Sport history as the region’s most valuable rights buyer, Ezzat immediately begins to look unelectable to AFC members if he is forced to follow his country’s political line.
The AFC members would effectively be asked to elect a president who would be working to undermine the confederation’s commercial revenue streams and partners. It is geo-political government posturing that threatens to upturn the whole broadcast sport economic in the region but also wider with football’s major right holders who are having their content stolen in Saudi.
BeIN Sport responded to the Saudi decision saying: “We vehemently disagree with the Saudi Arabian competition authority’s decision which is manifestly politically motivated. beIN is being attacked by the Saudi authorities for doing exactly what sports and entertainment broadcasters around the world do, and indeed what other broadcasters active in the Saudi market also do.
“The decision would require beIN to meet conditions that no broadcaster anywhere in the world is required to meet. This is simply another illegitimate attempt by Saudi Arabia to drive beIN’s highly successful business from the country, putting politics ahead of the interests of Saudi consumers. It also sends a deeply troubling message to the international business community about the arbitrary conditions of commerce and lack of the rule of law in Saudi Arabia. We are considering all legal options.”
What those legal options could be are unclear as the Saudi’s have shown no respect of international law at any point during this dispute, despite the complaints of UEFA, FIFA, Formula 1, LaLiga, the LFP, now the Premier League, and a host of tennis governing bodies and rights owners.
In their ruling the Saudi competitions authority says “that bein have abused its dominant position though several monopolistic practices and through forcing those interested in subscribing to the euro 2016 packages to:
– Forcing those interested to subscribe to the package to also subscribe to other packages containing other non sport channels
– Forcing those interested to subscribe to renew their subscriptions for an additional year as a condition to watch the euro 2016 event despite the fact that their subscriptions were valid and covers the period of the mentioned event
– Including the costs of other sports events which the subscribers are not interested in watching in the subscription of the said event price”.
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