BeIN Media is preparing to launch legal action against the Asian Football Confederation after the AFC revoked beIN’s exclusive rights to broadcast AFC matches in Saudi Arabia.
The AFC announced that it would stream matches involving Saudi teams via social media channels, with geo-blocking ensuring that the streams were only available in Saudi Arabia.
Qatar-based broadcaster beIN has described the move as a breach of its contract for exclusive broadcast rights, and accuses the AFC of colluding with Saudi Arabia.
BeIN CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said: “The AFC’s decision is not only a self-harming commercial decision and a clear political play with Saudi Arabia, but most damagingly it will impact rights holders across sports and entertainment around the world.”
AFC surrenders to illegal Saudi pressure on its official broadcaster as
Confederation unilaterally breaches beIN’s multi-million dollar regional rights dealhttps://t.co/YUwWB56wmL
— beIN MEDIA GROUP (@beINMEDIAGROUP) March 12, 2019
Since June 2017 Saudi Arabia has led a political blockade of Qatar, with beIN unable to operate within Saudi Arabia and its signals blocked in the kingdom.
BeIN has continued to broadcast Saudi matches, with commentary from Doha, as part of its $300 million contract for AFC matches in the MENA region until 2020.
Since the start of the blockade, pirate channel beoutQ has been illegally broadcasting beIN’s coverage inside Saudi Arabia, prompting threats of legal action from bodies including beIN and the AFC.
The Saudi government has denied any involvement in beoutQ but the piracy has provoked fierce responses from across the sports industry.
The AFC has stated that its decision to stream Saudi matches through social media was driven by a need to promote its competitions “for the benefit of all our stakeholders”.
While the contract with beIN was in place, the only way for Saudi viewers to watch the matches was through the beoutQ pirate channel.
BeIN sees the AFC’s move as condoning the piracy, with Al-Obaidly adding: “There is now no guaranteed protection of intellectual property in the region.”
The AFC’s decision comes amid a leadership election for the AFC presidency, with Bahraini incumbent Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Khalifa facing competition from candidates from Qatar and the UAE, a key Saudi ally.