The Asian Football Confederation has issued an invitation to tender for broadcast rights in the United Arab Emirates from 2021 to 2024.
The new deal is set to kick in once the existing pan-regional agreement with Qatar-based pay-TV broadcaster beIN Media Group expires at the end of 2020.
SportBusiness Media understands that the AFC aims to conclude the rights auction by the end of October.
Rights on offer include the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and Asian qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, which will take place in Qatar.
The ITT also includes the rights to the AFC Champions League, AFC Cup, the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and both men’s and women’s various age-grade competitions and futsal events.
In 2011, BeIN acquired the rights in the Middle East and North Africa to AFC competitions in a 10-year deal. The two parties were in negotiations about an extension to the deal but ultimately failed to agree new terms during the exclusive negotiation period last year.
In March, beIN threatened legal action against the AFC for ending beIN’s exclusivity in Saudi Arabia. Relations were then further strained in May when the AFC issued an ITT in the kingdom for the 2021-2024 rights cycle.
The Qatar-based broadcaster has been hugely affected by the emergence of the pirate beoutQ network, with vast swathes of its sports content pirated by the Saudi Arabia-based operation. In response, the broadcaster has adopted a non-exclusive approach to sports rights acquisitions and has downsized its rights bids accordingly.
The AFC signed an eight-year deal with Chinese media company Wuhan DDMC Culture and Synergy Sports for the sale of its international rights from 2021 to 2028. However, the newly-created DDMC Fortis joint venture is not selling the rights in the Mena region given it was excluded from the rights inventory offered.