Bengaluru, July 12: The political unrest in Middle East is spilling over to sports as well with football's global governing body FIFA deciding to crack the whip against Saudi Arabia television channel beoutQ, which is widely available in the kingdom, for continuing to illegally broadcast the ongoing 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Qatar-based beIN Sports, which is headed by Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain's owner Nasser Al Khelaifi, holds the exclusive rights to broadcast the 2018 World Cup in the Middle East and North Africa region.
However, it is currently blocked in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, under a trade and diplomatic boycott imposed on Qatar in June, 2017, for the country's alleged support to terrorism-related activities.
Twitterati has already gone berserk indicating that that the game's governing body is acting under immense pressure from Qatar, who are set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA, under pressure from Qatar one may assume, promises legal action over World Cup rip-off by Saudi-based pirate channel BeoutQ . . . https://t.co/ufetBc3EtS— Keir Radnedge (@KeirRadnedge) June 15, 2018
It may be recalled that FIFA last month warned that it was exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights over beoutQ's airing of the opening games of the World Cup tournament taking place in Russia.
Saudi Arabia says beoutQ is not based in the kingdom and that it has "relentlessly" combated the channel's activities and is committed to protecting international property rights.
With beoutQ continuing to broadcast the matches, FIFA decided to engage legal counsel to take action the erring channel.
FIFA says it will start legal action against a Saudi-based TV channel broadcasting pirate World Cup signals across the Middle East. https://t.co/1IYrgYhbwU— ANews (@anewscomtr) July 11, 2018
"FIFA has observed that the pirate entity named 'beoutQ' continues to use illegally the 2018 FIFA World Cup broadcast signal," the governing body said in a statement.
"Accordingly FIFA has engaged 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 FIFA statement added.
BeoutQ could not be reached for comment. It is unclear as to who owns or operates the channel.
"FIFA urges the authorities of Saudi Arabia and of the different countries where these illegal activities have been observed to support us in the fight against piracy," the FIFA statement said.
GCC neighbours Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been at loggerheads since the economic sanctions were imposed on Qatar last year and the latest issue is likely to add further fuel to the fire as sports becomes the biggest casualty in the political row.
(With FIFA/Agency inputs).