SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

With beoutQ piracy rampant, beIN Sport protests Serie A’s Super Cup ‘reward’ for Saudis

By Paul Nicholson

December 12 – Qatar-based pan-regional broadcaster beIN Sport has written to Serie A to ask the Italian league to reconsider the recently announced three-year deal for the staging of the Italian Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia.

A letter from beIN’s chief executive, Yousef Al-Obaidly, to Serie A’s general director, Marco Brunelli, and seen by Insideworldfootball, protests the decision to host the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia in light of the ongoing piracy by Saudi channel beoutQ.

That piracy includes the illegal retransmission of Serie A matches which beIN holds the broadcast rights.

Al-Obaidly says in the letter: “This decision (to host the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia) has significant implications for beIN Sports, one of the largest worldwide investors in Italian football, but more significantly for the long term value of Serie A’s media rights both in the MENA region and worldwide.”

With broadcast piracy issues worldwide for Europe’s major leagues, beIN’s message, which has reverberated around the sports rights market globally, is that Serie A is showing a disrespect for their rights holding partners. It raises suspicion that any deal TV Serie A will do could be undermined, which is certainly the case beIN is making.

The beIN letter outlines the extent of the beoutQ piracy in Saud Arabia and across the region which it says has been “brazenly stolen”. “Only last week all 9 Serie A matches were illegally broadcast live on beoutQ, in breach of beIN Sport’s exclusive rights across MENA,” says the letter.

Saudi Arabia, which acquired the Super Cup hosting rights in June, is paying €21 million. This compares to an estimated €500 million that beIN has committed to Serie A broadcasts. An amount that now looks in jeopardy going forward but also retrospectively if beIN sue Serie A for breach of agreement.

It also comes at an awkward time for Serie A which is desperate to rebuild its broadcast sales reputation and increase media value in the international marketplace for a league and clubs that have been lagging some distance behind rival European leagues.

Al-Obaidly says: “beIN Sports has been Serie A’s long term media partner in MENA and multiple other international markets…In light of this and the broader damage that the Saudi Arabian backed beoutQ service will have on the value of Serie A’s media rights, and the wider sports and entertainment industry and economic model, we do not understand why Serie A has chosen to publicly reward the Saudi Arabian authorities by staging the prestigious Super Cup match in the country and we would strongly ask you to reconsider.”

He goes on to point out the public condemning of the piracy in Saudi Arabia by LaLiga, the Premier League, Bundesliga, FIFA, UEFA, CAF and the AFC.

While Serie A is clearly swimming against the broadcast tide in what looks like an attempt to shoot the goose that laid its golden egg, other protests against the Saudi hosting have come from the journalists’ union for Italian state broadcaster RAI, which will air the Super Cup in Italy.

The union said it was “absurd and unacceptable” in light of the October killing of Mr. Khashoggi, which intelligence officials have concluded took place on the orders of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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