(Reuters) – England’s Premier League has appointed legal counsel to take action in Saudi Arabia against illegal pirate channel “beoutQ”.
The channel has been accused by world soccer’s governing body FIFA, tennis ruling bodies and other sports organisations of illegally airing content, whose exclusive TV rights in the Middle East belong to Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sport.
BeIn Sports has the rights to broadcast the Premier League and other sports competitions in the Middle East and North Africa.
“The League has already appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia to begin the process of bringing action against the parties involved in this piracy,” the Premier League said in a statement on Friday.
“We have also made representations through the Sports Rights Owners Coalition to the European Commission and made the UK government aware of the issue,” it said, describing the broadcasts as “highly organised and sophisticated illegal broadcast piracy”.
BeoutQ emerged in 2017 after Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar, accusing 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.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also said last week it was taking legal action regarding beoutQ’s illegal broadcasts of the continent-wide Asian Cup.
BeInSport this week published a dossier of what it called “industrial scale piracy of global sports and entertainment content”.
Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The World Trade Organisation said last month 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 last year’s World Cup, but details of the case have not yet been made public.
Saudi Arabia said at the time that the football governing body’s decision would supplement its “relentless efforts” to combat beoutQ’s activities.
Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)