Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chief executive of Qatar-owned beIN Media Group, has said he will travel to Switzerland on October 25 to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors amid ongoing investigations into the sale of Fifa World Cup rights, while it has emerged that beIN will be quizzed over alleged monopolistic practices in the Egyptian market.
On Friday, Jérôme Valcke, former secretary general of world football’s governing body Fifa, insisted that he did not engage in an “exchange” with Al-Khelaifi (pictured) after the office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) opened a criminal proceeding against the duo.
The OAG said last week that it suspected Valcke to have “accepted undue advantages from a businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the Fifa World Cups in 2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030 and from Nasser Al-Khelaifi in connection with the award of media rights for certain countries at the Fifa World Cups in 2026 and 2030.”
Last Thursday, Valcke was interviewed and properties in France, Greece, Italy and Spain were searched. Police in Italy said that a villa in Sardinia had been seized following allegations that the property was made available to Valcke by Al-Khelaifi.
BeIN has denied any claims of wrongdoing regarding a rights deal reportedly agreed by the media company for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa region. In January 2011, Al Jazeera Sport acquired the rights to all major Fifa events, excluding the Club World Cup, between 2015 and 2022 in 23 territories across the Middle East and North Africa region. It was Fifa’s incumbent rights-holder in the region, having bought out the previous rights-holder ART in November 2009, and subsequently transformed into beIN Media Group.
The announcement came weeks after Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Fifa has never announced if beIN also secured any 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights. Fifa said on Friday that its ethics commission had "opened a preliminary investigation into Nasser Al-Khelaifi."
Al-Khelaifi is also president of Paris Saint-Germain and following the Ligue 1 club’s 4-0 win over Anderlecht in the Uefa Champions League yesterday (Wednesday) he told French pay-television broadcaster Canal Plus: “I have a meeting on the 25th. I will go there to speak with the Swiss prosecutor. That is all. I came here for the match and everything continues as normal.”
In other news, Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram has said the country’s prosecutor-general, Nabil Sadek, has referred Al-Khelaifi and beIN to an economic court on charges related to monopolistic practices.
Al-Ahram said the charges concern alleged repeated violations of an Egyptian law on competition and the prevention of monopolistic practices. The newspaper said one of the charges relates to beIN allegedly cutting its services for Egyptian subscribers to the Egyptian satellite company NileSat, forcing them to switch to the Qatari Sohail satellite in order to watch African football matches.
BeIN is also accused of committing another breach through its sale of subscriptions in packages, potentially forcing customers to pay for content they don’t want to receive. BeIN’s sports content in Egypt includes exclusive rights to Confederation of African Football competitions.