By Paul Nicholson in Abu Dhabi
January 9 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has issued a statement condemning the Saudi-backed pirate broadcaster beoutQ’s theft of live matches from the Asian Cup currently being played in the UAE.
The championship, which kicked off January 4, has had every match stolen and rebroadcast on the pirate station, including the competition’s ninth game last night that saw Saudi Arabia open their campaign with a 4-0 group win over North Korea.
The AFC statement marks a toughening of its stance against the beoutQ piracy as it moves to protect the rights of its broadcasters, including by taking legal action.
“The AFC has already instructed counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interest,” said the statement.
“The AFC will continue to support its commercial and broadcast partners by protecting their contractual rights.”
Asian Cup rights are held by Qatar-based regional broadcaster BeIN Sports. The battle over the broadcast rights piracy is a reflection of the wider political and economic boycott, and geographical blockade, of Qatar lead by Saudi Arabia.
The only way Saudi fans could have watched their team’s match legally last night in Saudi Arabia was via BeIN Sport, which is banned in the country.
beoutQ pirated every game at the FIFA World Cup in Russia and so far this season has pirated every game of the English Premier League and Spanish Serie A, as well as UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches.
Pressure has been building on the Saudi support of the pirate beoutQ satellite service through a case before the World Trade Organisation by the state of Qatar. Qatar argues Saudi Arabia fails to protect IP rights, contrary to the country’s obligations under the TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). The WTO decided in December to elevate the case and establish a panel to review the complaints.
Separately beIN Media Group is bringing its own $1 billion international investment arbitration against Saudi Arabia in relation to beoutQ, which is the only known investment arbitration ever to be brought in connection with State-supported illegal broadcast piracy.
“We have high confidence in obtaining a successful award, and remain absolutely committed to pursuing all available legal remedies to protect our rights and to bring an end to beoutQ’s devastating piracy of the sports and entertainment industry… Those responsible for this Saudi-based pirate operation must be held to account. No one can be above the law.”,” said Sophie Jordan, executive director of Legal Affairs and General Legal Counsel of beIN MEDIA Group last December.
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