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Arabsat issues BeoutQ denial

Saudi-headquartered communications satellite operator Arabsat has denied that it is facilitating content broadcast by the BeoutQ pirate channel as pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports issued another strongly worded statement against the duo.

Arabsat has widely been linked to providing a signal enabling BeoutQ to illegally transmit the broadcasts of beIN Sports. It has now said that it has informed world football’s governing body Fifa that an investigation conducted by seven independent satellite communications experts has confirmed its satellite frequencies were not, and have not been used, by BeoutQ for illegal broadcasts of 2018 World Cup matches.

“Arabsat has always been confident that our satellite network has not been used by BeoutQ,” Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat’s chief executive, said, according to the Arab News website. “Nevertheless, we undertook a very costly investigation to eliminate any doubts and to provide evidence to share with Fifa and the world.”

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media last week said that it welcomed Fifa’s legal action against the operators of BeoutQ. The service showed live coverage of the 2018 World Cup despite not holding any rights to the tournament.

BeIN Sports has rights for the tournament across the Middle East and North Africa. The broadcaster is blocked in Saudi Arabia due to a trade and diplomatic boycott imposed on Qatar last year, but ahead of the World Cup did make 22 matches available via its free-to-air channels in the Middle East and North Africa following pressure over access to the tournament from multiple markets in the region.

Earlier last week, Fifa said that it had “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 Saudi ministry said that Fifa’s move would “supplement the relentless efforts by the KSA Ministry of Commerce and Investment in combating BeoutQ’s activities”.

Fifa’s two statements last week had not directly referenced Arabsat, but the operator has called for a public retraction of, and apology for, claims that it was somehow complicit or did not do enough to stop BeoutQ. “Arabsat has been deeply offended and harmed by beIN’s and Fifa’s attacks,” Balkheyour added. “Now that Fifa has been proven wrong, it should apologise for making such offensive statements.”

Earlier on Monday, beIN increased the rhetoric surrounding the ongoing situation by issuing the following statement: “There is unanimity of opinion among leading world sports organisations to publicly condemn and call for the immediate closure of the illegal Saudi Arabian-based piracy operation, ‘BeoutQ’.

“The united voice of condemnation from world sports organisations that have been calling for Arabsat to stop facilitating the theft of beIN’s content and for decisive action to be taken to stamp out BeoutQ includes, Fifa, Uefa, LaLiga, Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), the Confederation of African Football (CAF), All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), United States Tennis Association (USTA), French Tennis Federation (FFT), Tennis Australia (TA), Association Of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the governing body of Formula One, the FIA.”