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BeIN Sports banned from Saudi Arabia

The English Premier League’s official Middle East and North Africa (MENA) broadcast partner, BeIN Sports, have been permanently banned from operating in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar-based broadcaster, BeIN Sports have had their broadcast licence in Saudi Arabia cancelled and fined 10 million Saudi riyals (US$2.6 million) following the announcement made by the Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC). The broadcaster currently holds the rights to show the English Premier League until the end of the 2021/22 season, but following the announcement means there is no legitimate way of watching the most watched football league in the world in the Gulf Kingdom.

This follows the Newcastle United takeover saga where Saudi Arabia have attempted to take over The Magpies by using the country’s public investment fund to finance the deal. The proposal of £300 million (US$376 million) still remains under consideration by the league.

GAC’s announcement stated that BeIn Sports had 'abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices' which violated competition law.

In a statement by BeIN they said, "The decision is nonsensical on every single level, banning BeIN for packaging its rights in the standard way that sports and entertainment broadcasters all around the world do, and indeed as other broadcasters active in the Saudi market also do.

"Moreover, the very idea that permanently banning a leading competitor from a market could in any way promote competition is plainly absurd.

"We would also question – as we have for three years – how Saudi citizens can watch Premier League matches legally in Saudi Arabia with this ‘permanent’ ban on the Premier League’s licensed broadcaster. Or indeed how Saudi citizens can legally watch most major international sport, and how this fits into Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision."

After Saudi made their proposal, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) released a report stating the Saudi government supported the illegal pirate broadcasting network, BeoutQ, to broadcast a range of sports in the country which BeIN have the legal rights to. In addition, the Premier League wrote to the US Trade Representation, back in February, asking for Saudi Arabia to remain on their watch list, as the country ‘remained a centre for piracy’.

As Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been in a diplomatic conflict since 2017, the issue surrounding piracy and broadcasting rights comes at a prominent time as football clubs have not be able to generate matchday revenue from gate receipts due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, at the moment, clubs are relying on broadcasting on matchday to fill the void, in support, while fans are not allowed to enter the stadiums.

Author: James Parker