By Anthony Harwood/London Correspondent
*Tennis associations issue stern warnings against showing stolen content
Saudi Arabian sports fans are up in arms because no one in their country can watch Wimbledon - leading to demands for a pirate TV station showing the World Cup to start broadcasting the tennis as well.
TV viewers took to Twitter when the Riyadh-based station, beoutQ, failed to add the world’s most famous grass court championships to a long list of sporting events it has illegally been transmitting.
People living in Saudi Arabia are unable to watch Wimbledon due to a year-long diplomatic row with Qatar, where- beIN Sports- the channel which holds the rights to the championships, is based.
A trade embargo led to subscribers to beIN Sports being forced by the Saudi authorities to cancel their contracts.
To get around the ban, the Saudis launched a piracy operation in August and was able to steal the feed from beIN, which owns the rights to all major sporting events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
As well as the World Cup, the beoutQ channel has been illicitly showing the ATP World Tour, Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A and UEFA Champions League.
But when Wimbledon failed to appear on their screens this week as expected, the fans started venting their fury in Twitter.
Nasir al-Ghamdi, 20 demanded of the pirate station: "Broadcast Wimbledon, it’s a major competition. You’ve let down your fans. I enjoy tennis more than football and it matters to many Arab followers. Why are you disregarding it? It seems like I am going to buy beIN."
Mr San said: ‘It is strange that beoutQ didn’t broadcast Wimbledon, although it’s the most important!! It seems they forgot…
"The oldest, most traditional tennis competition, Wimbledon, is taking place right now and beoutQ is not aware at all. They are sat down showing insignificant past tournaments, wake up!!"
@mujarrdinsaan also complained saying: ‘Enquiry, please: Wimbledon started 3 days ago and you haven’t broadcasted (sic) it yet. Do you want to or not? If so, when?"
On Thursday Wimbledon fired off a warning shot in case the Saudi authorities were contemplating giving in to the pressure.
Commenting on the unlawful use of its proprietary commercial rights Richard Lewis, Chief Executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said: “Wimbledon is a brand beloved by millions and the protection of our copyright is of the utmost importance to us.
"In MENA the right to broadcast The Championships is exclusive to beIN SPORTS. We take the copyright infringement by beoutQ extremely seriously, and, alongside the other tennis governing bodies, we offer our support to beIN SPORTS as we look to protect our broadcast rights in the region."
The rest of the world’s tennis governing bodies also joining in the call for the illegal piracy operations in Saudi Arabia to be stopped.
These included hard-hitting statements from United States Tennis Association (USTA), the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Tennis Australia (TA), the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the ATP World Tour and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
It followed similar calls from soccer’s governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, for the piracy operation to end.
beoutQ decoder boxes have been on sale in Saudi Arabia for months and beIN feed is broadcast across the MENA region on the Riyadh-based satellite provider, Arabsat, in which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a majority shareholder.
On June 5 last year a Saudi-led alliance launched a diplomatic and transport blockade of Qatar.
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