By Anthony Harwood/Gulf Times London Correspondent
The Middle East’s biggest football channel is demanding Serie A pull out of hosting next week’s ‘Supercoppa’ match in Saudi Arabia to take a stand against piracy. beIN Sports said the Italian league had a duty to its clubs and the football community whose intellectual property rights and revenue streams are being routinely threatened by a Riyadh-based operation.
The channel’s CEO, Yousef al-Obaidly, disagreed with Serie A’s claims that next Wednesday’s match between Juventus and AC Milan in Jeddah would promote ‘Made in Italy and its values’. In a letter to Serie A boss Luigi De Siervo, he said: "The match in fact serves merely as a promotion of ‘Stolen by Saudi Arabia’.”
For nearly 18 months a piracy operation has enabled a Saudi channel, called beoutQ, to steal beIN’s exclusive broadcasts across the Mena region, including matches from Serie A, La Liga, Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup.
The Riyadh-based operation superimposes its own logo over the beIN one and transmits the content via the Arabsat satellite, which is owned by Saudi Arabia. beoutQ started broadcasting in August 2017 after Saudi Arabia launched a trade boycott of Qatar which meant matches shown on the Doha-based channel were no longer available.
Talking about a letter he received from former Serie A boss, Marco Brunelli, last year al-Obaidly said: "Although the letter suggests that Serie A has been at the forefront of the fight against piracy, the letter does not once address our principal point – that being beoutQ, the most sophisticated pirate operation the world has ever seen, which is backed by Saudi Arabia."
He also demands that Serie A:
*Issues a public a statement ahead of the Super Cup calling on the Saudi authorities to halt the piracy operation.
*Pulls out of hosting the tournament in Jeddah and finds somewhere even at this late stage.
*Joins a group legal action against beoutQ expected to include FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.
The fixture, the first of three proposed matches in the desert kingdom in a €7mn ($8.3mn) per game deal, has already met with opposition from human rights campaigners who accused Saudi Arabia of using sport to re-brand itself following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Politicians have also complained that women fans will not be allowed to attend the match unaccompanied, as is the custom in the kingdom. In its letter beIN pointed out that by going ahead with holding the Supercoppa in Jeddah it would effectively be shooting itself in the foot.
Al-Obaidly said: "Saudi Arabia has been actively supporting a plague of piracy on world sports and entertainment 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."Last updated: January 10 2019 11:59 PM
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