The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is roping in experts to step up its fight against Intellectual Property (IP) theft by Saudi-based pirate channel beoutQ that illegally broadcast last month’s Asian Cup.
A number of football bodies – including football’s world governing body FIFA and Europe’s UEFA – pursued legal action in Saudi Arabia against beoutQ last month, which they allege broadcast content whose exclusive TV rights in the Middle East belong to Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sport.
“In recent months the AFC has acted as part of a coalition against the pirate broadcasters ‘beoutQ’ and against those who attempted to ‘ambush’ marketing rights at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 held last month,” AFC said in a statement published on its website on Tuesday.
“Now to further strengthen the AFC’s stance against IP theft, the confederation is to engage market leaders in this field with a view to further combating the escalating risk. The AFC has already identified some key experts in the protection of IP but will continue to search to ensure that the advice it receives is of the highest possible quality.”
BeoutQ emerged in 2017 after Saudi Arabia and its allies – including the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – launched a diplomatic and trade boycott against Qatar and accused the Gulf state of “supporting terrorism”, allegations Doha denies.
The channel, which is widely available in Saudi Arabia, has been embroiled in several controversies in the past year.
In August, the English Premier League condemned its “illegal” broadcasting and “piracy of its matches” in the kingdom and multiple territories throughout the Middle East.
BeIN holds the legal rights for the broadcast of all Premier League fixtures across the Middle East and North Africa until 2021-2022.
The Premier League said there was “compelling” evidence showing the Riyadh-based Arabsat satellite operator allowed beoutQ to use its services while broadcasting Premier League matches.
Officials appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia and issued a complaint to the European Commission in response to the alleged piracy.
The move took place a month after FIFA announced it was set to take legal action against beoutQ for illegally broadcasting World Cup matches in the Middle East.
‘Plague of piracy’
BeIN has accused beoutQ of orchestrating “a plague of piracy on world sport”.
The company announced last week it had made a joint-submission with Miramax film studio, a subsidiary of the beIN Media Group, to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) with 138 pages of evidence of Saudi Arabia’s alleged support of the pirate channel.
“BeoutQ has continued to operate its pirate operation in Saudi Arabia with the full knowledge of the Saudi government,” BeIN said in a statement.
“The Saudi government offers a ‘safe haven’ for piracy that has now spread across Europe and the US.”
Riyadh denies beoutQ is based in the country and has repeatedly stated that Saudi authorities are committed to fighting piracy.