AFC ends beIN’s rights exclusivity in Saudi Arabia

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Tuesday it has removed from beIN Sports exclusive rights in Saudi Arabia to its competitions, claiming the move will help it tackle the illegal exploitation of its content.

It will now stream the matches involving Saudi Arabia teams played in Saudi Arabia in AFC competitions on its geo-blocked digital channels AFC Champions League Facebook Live and AFC YouTube.

AFC said the move is designed to help achieve its aim of “protecting the rights of its commercial and broadcast partners and to tackle attempts to illegally exploit those rights wherever it occurs”.

It added that the decision “also fulfils the AFC’s commitment to promote its competitions for the benefit of all our stakeholders and football in Asia”.

The announcement comes after the continental governing body in January condemned pirate channel beoutQ for its broadcasts of the 2019 Asian Cup national team tournament held in the United Arab Emirates. The AFC accused Saudi-based beoutQ of illegally showing coverage of the competition.

Qatar-based beIN Media Group has said that rights-holder’s stance on beoutQ would be “a critical factor” in determining whether it would bid for rights in future.

The company had not responded to a SportBusiness Media request for comment on the AFC decision at the time of writing.

The AFC’s statement comes after the Saudi Arabian Football Federation said on Monday it had received a letter from the AFC outlining the decision to cancel what the SAFF termed as beIN’s “monopoly” over the rights.

SAFF attributed the AFC’s decision to the “illegality” of beIN Sport transmissions in the Kingdom as a result of “grave violations” of laws and regulations, in addition to the broadcaster’s inability to obtain the required licenses necessary for it to fulfil its commitments in transmitting AFC’s competitions in the Saudi Arabia.

The SAFF said the new approach to broadcasting AFC competitions would commence with Tuesday’s Champions League clash between Saudi Pro League club Al-Hilal and Qatar Stars League outfit Al-Duhail.

It said Saudi Arabia will provide the transmission crew to accompany the commentators and analysts.