January 9, 2019 / 4:32 PM / 10 days ago

Asian Football Confederation to raise lawsuit in Saudi Arabia over piracy

DOHA (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said on Wednesday it was taking legal action in Saudi Arabia against television channel beoutQ for illegally broadcasting its Asian Cup, the region’s biggest football tournament.

BeoutQ has been accused by soccer’s governing body FIFA, tennis governing bodies and other sports bodies of illegally airing content whose exclusive Middle East television rights belong to Qatar-based broadcaster beIN.

BeoutQ emerged in 2017 after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar and accused the tiny Gulf state of supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.

BeoutQ is widely available in Saudi Arabia. But Riyadh says it is not based there and that the authorities are committed to fighting piracy, including announcing the confiscation of 12,000 pirating devices last June.

It is unclear who owns or operates the channel.

In a statement, the AFC said its Asian Cup, which kicked off in Abu Dhabi last week, had been appearing illegally on beoutQ.

“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,” the statement said.

AFC did not provide further detail on the parties involved in the case or damages being sought.

The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the AFC action.

Qatar-based beIN Sports holds exclusive television rights to a wide range of events for the Middle East including World Cup soccer, the Premier League, and AFC matches.

Last month, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said it would investigate Qatari allegations of intellectual property breaches by Saudi Arabia, including the piracy of beIN content, despite Riyadh’s objections on national security grounds.

FIFA said last July it would pursue legal action against beoutQ after the illegal broadcast of its 2018 World Cup, but details of the case have not yet been made public. Saudi Arabia said at the time that FIFA’s decision would supplement its “relentless efforts” to combat beoutQ’s activities.

Reporting by Eric Knecht in DOHA and Amlan Chakraborty in NEW DELHI, Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in RIYADH, Editing by William Maclean

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