Thursday 17 January 2019

Major row erupts as FIFA accuse a TV channel of broadcasting the World Cup illegally

World Cup finals are now in full swing in Russia (Darko Bandic/AP)
World Cup finals are now in full swing in Russia (Darko Bandic/AP)

Andrew Griffin

A major row has erupted over a TV station that Fifa claims is illegally showing World Cup matches.

The channel, known as BeoutQ, has been described as a "pirate" station and Fifa says that it has not given it the rights to broadcast any of the tournament. But it is continuing to show all 64 matches in Saudi Arabia, despite being warned not to.

The TV station appears to be the result of a major diplomatic fallout between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has led to the tournament not being officially broadcast in the former country, despite its team having qualified. Matches should have been shown on Doha-based beIN Sports – but after a trade ban between the two countries, fans in Saudi Arabia are not able to watch that channel.

Fifa had reportedly been trying to broker a deal so that Saudi fans could watch the tournament – including the opening match, which saw the national team play Russia – but nothing has been signed.

Instead, they are receiving a feed called BeoutQ that seems to re-broadcast that same content, including the World Cup. Fifa and the African football confederation says that rights have not been sold to that channel and that it will take action to stop the videos being broadcast.

"Fifa is aware that a pirate channel named BeoutQ has illegally distributed the opening matches of 2018 FIFA World Cup in the MENA region," the statement read. "Fifa takes infringements of its intellectual property very seriously and is exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights, including in relation to action against legitimate organisations that are seen to support such illegal activities.

"We refute that BeoutQ has received any rights from FIFA to broadcast any FIFA event."

BeoutQ has launched "a major piracy operation against beIN Media Group", the African football association said. It made clear that it "strongly condemns the practice of the audiovisual piracy of sport events", which it called "a real scourge for our industry".

"The Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) reminds that, it holds, on an exclusive basis, all the rights pertaining to its competitions, including all the related matches and any related official events, without any restrictions as to content, time, place and law," its statement read. It said the rights to broadcast the tournament in a range of middle eastern and north African countries had been sold exclusively to beIN.

"CAF is determined to take all necessary against 'beoutQ' if any of CAF matches is pirated."

BeIN media is reported to have lost some 40 per cent of its subscriber base as a result of losing the roughly 900,000 customers it had in Saudi Arabia.

Egypt – which is back in the World Cup this year after a 28 year absence – has also suggested that it could resort to piracy of beIN's feeds to ensure that its country's fans could watch the tournament. A statement from the competition authority said that fans had a "a right" to watch the games, urged Fifa to make them available, and said that fans might be able to view copies of beIN's streams instead.

The United Arab Emirates joined with Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the blockade of Qatar. But its broadcasters appear to have come to a deal with beIN, which is showing the tournament there.

Independent News Service

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