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AFC reports Saudi and UAE ‘reassurances’ over beIN Sports situation

The Asian Football Confederation has said it will continue to work with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and the United Arab Emirates Football Association to ensure the uninterrupted broadcast of AFC Champions League and Fifa World Cup qualifying matches in a bid to protect its commercial rights amid the ongoing situation concerning rights-holder, Qatar-based pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports.

Following the recent developments in the Gulf, the AFC Competitions Committee met in Doha yesterday (Tuesday). The body is chaired by Qatari official Saoud Al Mohannadi, who recused himself for the talks, and said it expressed its gratitude to the SAFF and UAEFA for their efforts in assisting the AFC in the broadcast of upcoming games.

BeIN holds the exclusive broadcast rights for matches under the control of the AFC for the Middle East region, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. However, it has been affected by diplomatic issues between countries in the region.

BeIN Sports returned to the screens of Etisalat and Du customers in the UAE over the weekend. Pay-television operators Etisalat and Du on Saturday confirmed the resumption of the beIN service.

On June 14, UAE authorities ordered retailers to stop selling beIN Sports receivers and viewing cards, warning that any shop that violated the order would be subject to fines, according to state news agency, Wam. Etisalat and Du home subscribers also noted disruption to their service around this time.

BeIN this month hit out angrily at media reports suggesting beIN Sports channels are being blacked out in the Mena region as a consequence of the Saudi Arabia-led economic blockade of Qatar launched on June 5. 

Lin Xiaohua, who chaired the AFC Competitions Committee for the discussion, said: “This is an extremely complex situation but we are pleased to have received reassurances from SAFF and UAEFA that they have no objection to the AFC delivering the international television feed for the games in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“The Committee recognises that it is important that the AFC commercial rights be defended and we are confident that the positive work, which is taking place to ensure the matches go ahead, continues. We also noted the extensive diplomatic efforts that are being made on a daily basis.”

The AFC added that it will continue to monitor regularly the situation on an operational basis and look to the continued co-operation of the SAFF and the UAEFA.

In other news from the meeting, the AFC Champions League, already the second richest continental club competition, will benefit from the redistribution of the television revenue pool to reward successful teams in the knock-out stage in 2018 with each team earning an additional $50,000 (€42,900) for every win, while a team drawing a match will get $10,000.

This will be in addition to the participation fees in each stage of the competition, resulting in $3m for the Champions League winners and $1.5m to the runners-up, as the AFC looks to incentivise the better performing clubs.

Meanwhile, the franchise-based Indian Super League has received AFC approval with the winners of the tournament granted a place in the AFC Cup preliminary stage from next year. The All India Football Federation had requested the Competitions Committee give special dispensation for the ISL to replace the status of the Federation Cup, whose winner is currently allocated an AFC Cup preliminary stage place. 

Finally, the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship, which will be played between October 18 and November 4 next year, was awarded to Indonesia. The Committee said this will assist the country in its recovery and development of football after its recent ban handed out by world football’s governing body Fifa. For the AFC U-16 Championship, Malaysia will host the event to be played between September 20 and October 7, 2018.