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BeIN claims court win over ASO rights deal

BeIN Media Group has today (Tuesday) claimed another victory in its ongoing battle against Saudi entities, with a French court ruling that the Qatar-based broadcaster’s rights deal with Amaury Sport Organisation must be upheld.

In a ruling delivered on October 11, but detailed today (Tuesday), the president of the Nanterre Commercial Court ordered ASO – organiser of motorsport event the Dakar Rally and cycling showpiece the Tour de France, amongst other events – to maintain its five-year exclusive rights agreement with beIN Mena, beIN’s Middle East and North Africa division.

In July 2018, beIN and ASO entered into a multi-million euro deal granting beIN exclusive media rights in Mena to all of the Organisation’s major events, including the Dakar Rally, Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Le Critérium du Dauphiné, ParisTours and the Paris Marathon, from 2018 to 2023.

In April, ASO confirmed that the Dakar Rally would be held in Saudi Arabia from 2020 under a multi-year agreement. Following this announcement, beIN said ASO attempted to exit its Mena broadcast deal and instead license the media rights to a Saudi broadcaster.

BeIN also alleged that ASO refused to provide satellite feeds to its events, for which beIN was the official and exclusive broadcast partner. These actions resulted in beIN taking ASO to court.

The president of the Nanterre Commercial Court, after ruling that ASO’s termination was seriously questionable, issued an interim order in favour of beIN ordering ASO to “continue the performance of the contract in all its stipulations”.

The ruling also included a penalty of €10,000 ($11,130) for every day that ASO refused to give beIN the necessary satellite feeds, as well as technical and operational information to ensure it could broadcast events.

In a statement, beIN noted that ASO was represented by De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, the law firm that represented Arabsat in June’s high-profile court case where the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris ruled that the Saudi-headquartered satellite provider distributes Saudi-based pirate broadcaster beoutQ on its satellites, something that Arabsat had denied.

Commenting on the ASO ruling, Caroline Guenneteau, head of legal for beIN Sports France, said: “We are pleased that the rule of law has prevailed and that commercial contracts cannot be torn up by undue interference.

“This series of events gives an indication of the Saudi’s new strategy while its beoutQ transmissions remain down over satellite; namely, to illegally force its way into sports broadcasting through undue political and commercial influence.

“However, this French ruling sends a clear message that the pressuring of commercial partners to illegally break contracts will not be tolerated. BeIN will relentlessly defend its commercial interests using the full force of the law.”

SportBusiness has contacted ASO for comment on the ruling.