Qatari pay-TV giant BeIN Sports has written to Serie A chief executive Luigi de Siervo, requesting that Italian soccer’s top flight reconsiders its decision to take next week’s Italian Supercoppa to Saudi Arabia because of an ongoing piracy row.
The match, being played between Italian sides Juventus and AC Milan, features the previous season’s winners of both the domestic title and Italy’s Coppa Italia.
A deal between Lega Serie A, the governing body for Italian club soccer’s top flight, and Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) was agreed in June for three of the next five Supercoppa fixtures to take place in Jeddah.
However, its first instalment comes amid an international row between BeIN Sports and illegal pirate broadcaster BeoutQ.
While Saudi Arabia has long denied that it is behind BeoutQ, BeIN announced in August that digital security, media solutions and technology companies Cisco Systems, Nagra and Overon had all investigated and confirmed that the piracy channel is being distributed on Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.
An email from BeIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, dated 9th January and shared by AFP, describes BeoutQ as ‘the most sophisticated pirate operation that the world of sport has ever seen’ and assert it is backed by the Saudi state.
It adds: ‘Saudi Arabia has been actively supporting a plague of piracy on world sports and entertainment for over 18 months, which is undermining the long-term commercial prospects of Serie A and rights holders worldwide.
‘Unless Saudi Arabia’s attempt to undermine the rule of law is addressed, it will fatally damage one of Serie A’s most important sources of growth revenue.’
The email appears to follow a previous correspondence with De Siervo’s predecessor as chief executive, Marco Brunelli, with BeIN describing his response to the broadcaster’s concerns as ‘deeply disappointing’, accusing him of failing to address the issue of the piracy scandal.
In November, senior BeIN executives warned that the company would be forced to scale back on its sports broadcasting strategy if the illegal operation is not halted.
BeIN managing director Tom Keaveny told SportsPro: “This is tactical, it’s strategic, and we haven’t got the ability of using basic norms of the rules of law to seek a remedy - a remedy to a wrong that is obvious and pernicious, and is happening on a daily basis..”
BeoutQ’s widespread piracy operation has affected a variety of BeIN’s flagship sports properties, with the channel stealing coverage of the Fifa World Cup, the Uefa Champions League, Formula One, global tennis tournaments and various other events.
Fifa, soccer’s global governing body, said in July that it was taking legal action in Saudi Arabia against BeoutQ, with various other bodies calling for the channel to be shut down.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) became the latest governing body to condemn the pirate network on Wednesday, with BeoutQ accused of illegally showing coverage of every game thus far from the ongoing Asian Cup competition.
In a statement, the AFC said: ‘The AFC has already instructed 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.’
In December, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed to launch an inquiry into whether Saudi Arabia had failed to clamp down on the pirate network.