Saud Al-Qahtani, the General Supervisor of the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, confirmed that relevant Saudi authorities are taking the necessary legal steps against the beIN Sports channels for “bringing politics into sports”.
Saudi authorities have filed an official complaint to FIFA following the national team’s World Cup match against Russia on Saturday.
In an interview with CNN, Qahtani said that the Qatari-owned channel made “enormous violations” against his country and the Saudi people. Qahtani explained on his official twitter account that the reason for his harsh stance and words is that he believes that he needs to address Qatar “in their own language”.
“This Qatari monopoly has become a disaster for football fans, and we are calling for the end of this monopoly lead by beIN Sports so that the broadcasting issue does not develop further,” Qahtani told CNN.
Football supporters tuning into the BeIN Sport’s Arabic coverage of the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow noted the partisan tone that the broadcaster's presenters and commentators had taken.
In particular, viewers were taken aback by the anti-Saudi stance that the Doha-based channel’s team of pundits were taking, openly delighting in the team’s 5-0 loss to the hosts.
Qahtani called on the activation of Olympic charters, which dictate that sports competitions should not be exploited in order to pass a specific political agenda.
“As far as I know, the Saudi Football Federation and other parties in the kingdom referred the violations of beIN SPORTS following the opening match to legal experts and international law firms to take legal action against them. The Saudi Federation filed a complaint with FIFA about these violations and for the infusion of political files in the commentating in their studios after the (World Cup’s) opening match,” Qahtani told CNN.
He also mentioned the petition ‘Sports 4 Everyone’ which was started by a number of Arab celebrities and fans including famous Egyptian football player Ahmed Hassan, football commentator Medhat Shalaby and Saudi football player Majed Abdullah.
The website has a petition, which calls for the end of beIN SPORTS politicizing sports programs. Qahtani said the petition already has over 115,000 signatures.
Beoutq rumors shunned
When asked about rumors that the infamous Beoutq sports channel is supported by Saudi Arabia to compete with the beIN channels, and why the kingdom doesn’t just ban it from airing on the Arabsat satellite channels, Qahtani said that this is a question for Arabsat, not him.
“What you are asking is that Saudi Arabia take an action that is out of its authority. It is under the authority of Arabsat which falls under the control of the Arab League that is made up of 22 participating countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar” he said.
Qahtani stressed that in any case, the kingdom was taking strict measures to control the illegal broadcast of Beoutq, as the kingdom “respects intellectual copyrights and abides by international laws in that regard.”
“Piracy is an international issue, for there are several countries that confiscated these pirated devices like Kuwait and Oman. But let’s not forget that this problem exists in several Asian and European countries as well. There are actually clips that show that the Beoutq channel is being broadcast in Doha itself, and in public spaces as well,” Qahtani said.
On the topic of rumors surrounding Saudi Arabia launching a competing sports channel to end the beIN monopoly, Qahtani said that Saudi Arabia’s main focus currently is that the broadcasting rights of sporting events are spread out fairly, without any one country taking advantage of it to spread their political agendas.
“Actually, in Saudi Arabia we do not make our decisions based on a reaction of what others are doing... Qatar recruits its presenters and studio guests at beIN Sports to attack its political enemies and bash countries that disagree with it, and this is what the world will continue to stand against. Our weapon is the law and FIFA,” Qahtani told CNN.
BeIN Sports was launched in 2012 after entering the European television rights market in June 2011. Formerly known as Al Jazeera Sports, the channel is a private institution established by the Emir of Qatar.