FIFA wants Saudis to stop pirated Women's World Cup TV feeds

(AP Photo/Claude Paris)

By ROB HARRIS

AP Global Soccer Writer

NICE, France (AP) FIFA wants Saudi-backed satellite broadcaster Arabsat to stop transmitting pirated feeds of Women's World Cup games from a Qatari network, part of an ongoing sports television rights dispute linked to the Gulf diplomatic crisis.

Bootlegged feeds from Doha-based beIN Sports of top soccer games have been broadcast by Saudi-based BeoutQ since 2017.

FIFA, which sells exclusive rights to beIN, called out Arabsat for distributing on BeoutQ. Screengrabs from BeoutQ's coverage of England's victory over Scotland at the Women's World Cup last week included a beIN logo on the screen.

"FIFA is aware that unauthorized transmissions of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 are being made available across the MENA region, primarily Saudi Arabia, via the pirate broadcaster known as beoutQ," FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press that referred to the acronym for the Middle East and North Africa. "BeoutQ's unauthorized transmissions of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 are made available by way of Arabsat satellite frequencies.

FIFA said it is exploring its legal options, and it requested assistance of the Arab Satellite Communications Organization, a satellite operator known as Arabsat.

Saudi authorities declared beIN illegal in the kingdom, a proxy battle in the nation's wider economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar that was launched nearly two years ago. BeIN has pursued in French courts.

"Even if we are illegally denied access to justice in Saudi Arabia, we will use every means possible to hold beoutQ and Arabsat to account for their daily theft of rights-holders' intellectual property," beIN group chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly said.

"But we are not fighting this battle alone - the weight of the international community is now firmly coming to bear on Saudi Arabia to end its safe haven for piracy, which is destroying not only the economic model of the global sports and entertainment industry, but the livelihoods of content creators all around the world."

FIFA, UEFA and the Asian Football Confederation issued a joint statement with the English Premier League, German Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga denouncing "persistent and illegal screening" of games in which beIN owned the Middle East rights.

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Updated June 16, 2019

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