By Anthony Harwood/London Correspondent
The Premier League and La Ligue yesterday joined forces to take the Saudi Arabian pirate TV station, beoutQ, to the European Commission. It happened after the two major football leagues in Europe had all the matches of the new season broadcast by the rogue transmitter across the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.
This followed illegal broadcasts of the World Cup, Champions League and Formula I which were all similarly pirated from the Qatar-based channel, beIN Sports, which owns the exclusive rights. But yesterday the Premier League, whose matches were also pirated last season, decided enough was enough.
In a statement it said: “The Premier League has written to the European Commission as part of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition. This is just one of the measures we are taking to address this very serious issue. We operate a significant anti-piracy programme in a range of countries to protect the copyright of the League and our clubs.
“Like all content creators and rights owners, our business model is predicated on the ability to market and sell protected rights and we will take all available action to support the investment made in the League by our legitimate broadcast partners.”
The stolen transmissions of major European leagues began last season after a diplomatic row broke out between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A Saudi-led alliance led a diplomatic and trade boycott of the tiny Gulf state, which included banning the sale of beIN satellite decoder boxes.
Since then beoutQ has found a way of stealing the beIN feed and been wantonly broadcasting whatever it chooses via the Saudi government-owned satellite, Arabsat.
Yesterday La Ligue also decided it had had enough and would be taking the broadcast piracy of the opening games of Ligue 1 Conforama and Domino’s Ligue 2 by beoutQ to the European Commission.
A statement by Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP) said: “LFP is taking ‘beoutQ’ and Arabsat’s unauthorised and illegal exploitation of its products very seriously, and has addressed a letter to the Director General for Trade at the European Commission seeking support for investigating ‘beoutQ’ and demanding that pressure be placed on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to act and shut down the pirate channel.”
It followed the creation of the Association for the Protection of Sporting Programmes (APPS), a grouping of broadcasters, the professional leagues and the sports’ federal bodies. They met in January to work out how to combat the threat of piracy which has been described by UEFA as a threat to the future of European football. Didier Quillot, LFP Executive Director General, said: “Pirate broadcasts attack directly at the economic heart of the sport and we must unite in our struggle against this practice.”
Since the row over beoutQ’s piracy flared up last August, Saudi Arabia has vehemently denied it is responsible for the illegal transmissions, even claiming they come from Cuba and Colombia. But yesterday the world’s leading digital security and technology companies – Cisco Systems, NAGRA and Overon – independently confirmed the rogue broadcasts are being distributed on the Riyadh-based satellite, Arabsat, whose majority shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The beoutq.se website is also geoblocked to Saudi Arabia and satellite subscriptions must be validated from a Saudi IP address. Its subscriptions are also priced in Saudi riyals only and its channels carry advertising for numerous Saudi brands.
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