Premier League caught up in 'world's biggest piracy operation'

An industrial-scale operation that lets fans watch matches online for free is the 'most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen'

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 17 August 2018 09:53
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Premier League weekend round-up

Premier League football matches have been caught up in a massive piracy operation that is illegally broadcasting every game on an industrial scale.

The BeoutQ live streaming platform, which operates out of Saudi Arabia, is the result of a diplomatic dispute in the Middle East that has seen several nations cut trade ties with Qatar over the country's alleged support of terrorism.

Broadcasting rights to the Premier League in the region are owned by Doha-based network BeIN Sports, whose feed is hijacked by BeoutQ.

Since launching last year, BeoutQ has grown to 10 different channels that are broadcast through the ArabSAT satellite broadcasting network to set-top boxes that are widely available in Saudi Arabia.

The pirating of football World Cup matches earlier this summer prompted Fifa to join widespread condemnation of BeoutQ, which has seen several sports' governing bodies openly criticise Saudi Arabia's perceived lack of action against the piracy.

On Thursday, BeIN Media Group described BeoutQ as "the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen," and said the evidence was "irrefutable" that the channel is backed by Saudi nationals and openly promoted by leading Saudi figures.

The broadcaster has also warned that the implications of the BeoutQ operation resonate far more broadly than Qatar.

A still of the Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester City that was pirated by BeoutQ

"The political games played by Arabsat, BeoutQ and its Saudi backers in stealing our content have consequences that affect the future of world sport, not just BeIN Sports," said Tom Keaveny, managing director of BeIN Media Group.

"That is why the international sports community – from Fifa to Uefa, Formula 1 to World Tennis, together with a host of other global broadcasters – have all take a stand and publicly condemned this Saudi-based piracy."

Other major football leagues to be drawn into the dispute include Ligue 1 in France, which plans to bring the issue before the European Commission.

"The LFP (Ligue de Football Professionnel) continues to take all necessary action to defend its interests and the interests of its broadcasters," said Didier Quillot, an executive director at the LFP.

"Pirate broadcasts attack directly at the economic heart of the sport and we must unite in our struggle against this practice. We ask Arabsat and Saudi Arabia to intervene to stop the piracy of our contents."

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