FIFA is set to take legal action against a pirate company beoutQ for illegally broadcasting World Cup matches in the Middle East, as other sports federations have joined a chorus of calls for the piracy operation’s closure.
Football’s governing body said in a statement on Wednesday that it had “engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia”, where the 10-channel system is allegedly broadcasting from on the Riyadh-based Arabsat satellite operator.
“FIFA urges the authorities of Saudi Arabia and of the different countries where these illegal activities have been observed to support us in the fight against piracy,” it said.
FIFA’s call comes after tennis’ governing bodies issued a joint statement last week, condemning beoutQ’s pirated coverage of major tennis tournaments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region over the past year.
“Industrial-scale illegal piracy of this nature is of great concern as it risks significantly damaging the value of the commercial broadcast rights that tennis governing bodies and rights holders around the world rely on to fund the sport at a professional and amateur level,” the joint statement by the tennis bodies said.
The statement is supported by the International Tennis Federation, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Tennis Australia (TA), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association.
“The case of beoutQ is especially troubling due to the unparalleled sophistication and the extensive period of time over which the commercial-scale theft has been allowed to continue,” the statement added.
European football organisation UEFA, Spanish football league La Liga and Formula One’s governing association, FIA, have also denounced the piracy operation on Arabsat and raised similar concerns.
BeIN Media Group, a Qatar-based sports network which holds the exclusive rights to broadcast European and international championship tournaments to the MENA region, has claimed beoutQ is stealing its signal and broadcasting it as its own.
During its live coverage of the World Cup in Russia and the ongoing Wimbledon tennis tournament in London, beIN put a ticker on its screens showing the FIFA statement and that by the ITF in an attempt to raise awareness among beoutQ customers that they are watching a stolen version of the beIN signal.
Tariq Panja, a global sports reporter for The New York Times, says FIFA will face a lot of difficulty finding legal representation inside Saudi Arabia.
“It’s quite bizarre in a way – if you can’t get a lawyer, if you can’t take legal action to the court, you are not going to get a decision and this has been going on now for the better part of a year,” he told Al Jazeera.
Panja added that beoutQ’s operation is “very sophisticated” and “extremely complicated”, costing “millions of dollars”.
“They must have access to multiple feeds of these competitions and it’s not just the beIN sports channels that are affected; it seems like there are other sports rights broadcasters and owners that are affected by it.”
The controversy comes as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt continue their blockade on Qatar.
On June 5, 2017, the four Arab countries severed diplomatic and trade ties with Doha, and imposed a land, air and sea blockade against it.
The move prompted broadcast carriers in Saudi Arabia to block beIN broadcasts.