BeIN Sports has been accused of politicising the World Cup through some of its commentary.
Turki Al Sheikh, head of Saudi Arabia’s sports authority, said legal action against the Qatari-funded broadcaster was being considered.
Mr Al Sheikh said beIN had exploited sport for political goals in some of the commentary after Saudi’s 5-0 loss to Russia in last Thursday’s opening game. This proves the country was correct in blocking the channel, he posted on Twitter.
Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, also seemingly commented on the issue, tweeting that sport channels should not carry personal agendas.
In a statement to The National, beIN said it was focused on delivering sport coverage.
“Our coverage and our passion are focused on delivering the greatest in sport and entertainment and we have steadfastly refused to involve ourselves in regional political issues,” it said.
“The coverage and analysis of Fifa World Cup Russia 2018 matches are delivered by beIN’s world-class talent, who are among the most professional and most respected announcers in the sporting world.”
The Qatari-funded broadcaster beIN owns the rights in the Middle East and North Africa to major sporting competitions such as the UK’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and the Fifa World Cup.
But when the Arab quartet of the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia imposed a boycott of Qatar last year, beIN Sports was temporarily blocked in the UAE for more than a month.
In the run-up to the World Cup, there was still no news from service providers du or Etisalat about packages to watch it here. Just a few weeks ago, the service was briefly unavailable on the du network. But in a relief for football fans, both were finally able to offer coverage.
Etisalat, for example, charged a one-off standalone fee of Dh555 to view all 64 games from Russia – Dh100 more than the package on offer for the last World Cup four years ago. Du offered a similar package.
In 2014, beIN had to restrict the number of Premier League games it screened live on Saturdays as they were being illegally streamed in the UK. Barcodes were floated across the screen in an effort to clamp down on the practice.
Viewers of the current World Cup will have seen floating beIN logos drift across the screen. It coincides with a ticker at the bottom referring to piracy of games in the region by an entity called BeoutQ, with host Richard Keys also mentioning it during the coverage. Fifa too has made a statement on the issue.
“Fifa is aware that a pirate channel named BeoutQ has illegally distributed the opening matches of 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Mena region,” it said.
“Fifa takes infringements of its intellectual property very seriously and is exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights,” it said.