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BeIN opts for Serie A ‘blackout’ in latest piracy spat

Qatari pay-television broadcaster beIN Sports did not show any Serie A matches on the season’s restart in the 35 territories where it holds rights, amid tensions over the league’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, which beIN accuses of supporting pirate channel beoutQ.

A beIN spokesperson said in a statement: “No Serie A matches are being broadcast on beIN Sports’ entire global network. It would not be appropriate to comment further, other than to say our legal and public position has been consistent and well-documented for three years.”

Last weekend saw the start of the first set of matches to be played since the league was paused due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

BeIN holds Serie A rights across a slew of territories, including France, Australia and the Middle East and North Africa in deals running from 2018-19 to 2020-21, worth around $170m (€151.5m) per season.

The broadcaster has said it will take a firm line where it feels rights-holders do not stand up to piracy. It has been badly affected by the activities of beoutQ, which the World Trade Organisation ruled last week has been actively promoted by Saudia Arabia.

BeIN’s relationship with Serie A has become strained as the Italian league’s ties to Saudi Arabia have grown in recent years.

The broadcaster announced that it was “considering its entire commercial relationship” with Serie A ahead of last year’s Italian Super Cup which was played in Saudi Arabia.

Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo defended the league’s Coppa Italia deal with Saudi Arabia at the time, saying that the deal pre-dated his arrival and that he “could not fail to honour” the five-year hosting contract which was signed in 2018 worth €4.5m per season.

BeoutQ’s financial impact on beIN’s Mena operation has been widespread and last year saw the broadcaster cut 300 jobs in its Qatar headquarters, around 20 per cent of its total workforce in the country.

BeIN chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly has said that, as a result of beoutQ’s activities, the company now considers all sporting media rights “non-exclusive”. It has also taken an aggressive stance against the proposed takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United, which is backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.