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Saudi Arabia permanently bans beIN Sports

Yousef Al-Obaidly, CEO, BeIN Media Group

The sparring between Qatar and Saudi Arabia has taken a new turn, with the latter permanently banning broadcaster beIN Sports from the Kingdom.

The move comes as the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia – chaired by crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman – looks to acquire Premier League club Newcastle United. The Qatar-based beIN has been a vocal opponent of the takeover, with beIN Media group CEO Yousef al-Obaidly recently sending a letter to the Premier League clubs’ chairmen to highlight the country’s history of facilitating piracy. This link to piracy was strengthened in May when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that the country was indeed behind pirate broadcast operation beoutQ.

Now with relations at a low point, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) has announced that beIN Sports, the exclusive rights holder to the Premier League in the MENA region, has had its broadcast licence cancelled and been fined 10 million Saudi riyals (€2.3 million).

A statement from the GAC said that the broadcaster has “abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices.”

This effectively makes permanent a temporary ban on beIN’s operation in Saudi Arabia which has been in place since 2017.

The news flies in the face of reports which claimed that the UK government had come to a diplomatic compromise in the broadcasting conflict between the countries. It is believed that the UK government is in favour of the Saudi-led takeover.

A statement from beIN said: “This decision was arrived at through sham legal proceedings that repeatedly violated beIN’s due process rights at every turn and the decision itself is not only contrary to international law but also the most basic principles of competition law.

“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.”

The broadcaster also questioned how the ban on the broadcaster, which is the primary rights holder to most international sports competitions in the region, “fits into Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision.”

The statement concluded: “Saudi Arabia’s relentless failure to pay any heed to the rule of law or international norms is only harming sports fans in Saudi, and sports organisations all around the world.”