LONDON: The televised football strand of the politicak dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar has reached out to envelop the English Premier League – after the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports has stated that BeoutQ, a pirate channel operating out of Saudi Arabia and across in the Middle East and North Africa, illegally distributed its coverage of the opening weekend’s 10 games from England six in France.

In addition, BeoutQ also promoted coverage of upcoming games it will show from Spanish soccer’s LaLiga and Germany’s Bundesliga, neither of which the channel has rights for.

FIFA, UEFA, motor racing’s Formula I and the world tennis governing bodies have all called for BeoutQ to be shut down after having their content stolen.

In its latest statement, BeIN said the pirate channel is being distributed via Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat. The company had claimed, in a letter to FIFA in July, that an investigation by ‘seven independent satellite communications experts’ confirmed that its satellite frequencies had not been exploited by BeoutQ.

Tom Keaveny, managing director of BeIN Media Group in the MENA region, said: “The political games being played by Arabsat, BeoutQ and its Saudi backers in stealing our content have consequences that affect the future of world sport, not just BeIN Sports.

“That is why the international sports community have all taken a stand and publicly condemned this Saudi-based piracy. BeoutQ and its Saudi backers seem to think they can operate beyond the reproach of the rule of law and the international norms that everyone else respects.”

A statement from BeIN added that while the Saudi government claims to have made ‘relentless efforts’ to combat piracy, BeoutQ set-top boxes are being widely and openly sold across the country.

Sophie Jordan, executive director of legal affairs and general legal counsel of BeIN Media Group, said: “The evidence is irrefutable: the illegal channel BeoutQ is backed by Saudi nationals and openly promoted by leading Saudi figures; it is operating with the tacit consent of the Saudi government and its World Cup pirate feeds were viewed on public screens under the responsibility of Saudi authorities across the country; it is broadcast on the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat; on a daily basis it is carrying out – in broad daylight – a mass-scale theft of highly valuable intellectual property rights.

“It is time for Arabsat to switch off the pirate transmissions it has supported for almost a year; it is time for Arabsat to be made accountable for facilitating the largest pay-TV piracy organisation in the history of pay-TV.”