Qatar's beIN targets Saudis with 'reveal all' piracy website

Published 18.01.2019 01:04

Qatar's beIN media group on Wednesday stepped up its campaign against alleged Saudi-backed piracy, launching a website exposing what it says is wide-scale theft of its programs.

The "reveal all" website went live to hold the pirate operation to account, a statement said.

"What started out as a concerted and targeted campaign against beIN has now morphed into the largest commercial theft that's ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment," Tom Keaveny, beIN's managing director in the Middle East region, said in the statement. "This Saudi-supported plague of piracy represents an existential threat to the economic model of the industry."

The website details programs being illegally broadcast in more than 20 countries, a timeline of events and points the finger at several prominent Saudi figures under the headline: "The Saudi State-Supported Piracy of World Sport and Entertainment."

BeIN has previously alleged that since August 2017 a vast and sophisticated Saudi bootlegging network known as "beoutQ" had been transmitting its stolen programs via Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat. In October, beIN launched a compensation claim worth $1 billion against the Saudi piracy channel, while Qatar filed an action at the World Trade Organization (WTO). But no progress has been reported so far.

FIFA and the English Premier League said they were preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against the pirates.

Saudi Arabia has denied the claims and even said the piracy was operating out of Cuba. BeIN's website launch was backed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and another service provider, Eleven Sports.

The CAF said in a statement that only it holds the rights to matches played in its competitions and "strongly condemned" beoutQ's "major piracy operation."

It added it would "take all necessary" steps if any of its matches were pirated.

London-based Eleven, which has rights in the UK to football matches from major European leagues, including Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A, tweeted that it stood "shoulder-to-shoulder" with the Qataris. "Piracy is one of the greatest threats to the future of the sports and entertainment industry, and we stand against it in all forms," said Eleven Sports.

The latest beIN move comes amid a 19-month economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar – by Saudi Arabia and its allies – that accuses Doha of backing terrorism and seeking closer ties with rival Iran. Qatar has refuted the claims.

The website was launched on the day the Italian Supercoppa is played in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah, which beIN has called on to be moved elsewhere because of the piracy issue.

On Thursday, Qatar and Saudi Arabia meet in a politically charged Asian Cup football match in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which backs Riyadh in the diplomatic dispute.

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