KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: FIFA has announced finally that it is preparing legal action over the World Cup television pirate operation being run out of Saudi Arabia by a channel provocatively named BeoutQ.

The issue had been perceived as a delicate one for the world football federation at a time when president Gianni Infantino has been involved in negotiations over a long-term $25bn competitions deal in which a Saudi consortium is believed to be involved.

A statement from FIFA said: “FIFA has observed that the pirate entity named ‘beoutQ’ continues to use illegally the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ broadcast signal.

“Accordingly, FIFA has engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interest.

“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.”

BeoutQ has been set up to undermine the BeIN channel, a rights-greedy subsidiary of Qatar’s Aljazeera, by a Saudi-led coalition which has been trying in vain to disrupt the operations of the tiny Gulf state.

This has included using BeoutQ – the clue is in the name – to pirate coverage of the World Cup in Russia without FIFA apparently putting up much of a fight.

European federation UEFA is also angry that the pirate channel illegally distributed the Champions League and Europa League throughout the 2017-18 season.

Until now FIFA had omitted to mentioning the geopolitical connection however UEFA showed no such reluctance in pointing up the Saudi link to the illicit broadcasting in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) zone.

The African football federation CAF has also criticised the BeoutQ action on the basis that it is damaging regional football finances. It has also been accused of stealing World Cup content from American broadcaster NBC Universal.