The English Premier League said Tuesday it is taking steps to bring legal action in Saudi Arabia to resolve a piracy issue over the televising of its matches and to protect its authorised broadcaster Qatar-based beIN Media Group.
The EPL said it had seen “compelling evidence” that all 20 of its matches shown over the first two weekends of this season’s campaign had been broadcast illegally by a pirate TV channel called “beoutQ’.
BeIN Sports was only recently awarded the exclusive broadcasting rights across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for another three seasons up to the 2021/22 campaign after paying ‘tens of millions’ for them.
“The Premier League takes piracy in all its forms extremely seriously and is committed to working with its broadcast partners and regulatory authorities in territories all around the world to stop the non-authorised exploitation of its content,” read a statement from the EPL.
“As such, the Premier League has appointed legal counsel in Saudi Arabia to begin the process of bringing legal action against the parties involved in this piracy.
“Given the strong copyright framework in Saudi Arabia, the Premier League is confident that the Saudi Arabian authorities will ultimately uphold its clear rights when the action is commenced.”
It is the latest development in a long-running war over illegal broadcasts fuelled by a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month BeIN — which has paid billions of dollars to secure exclusive rights to broadcast English Premier League and French Ligue 1 matches live — said it had “irrefutable evidence” that beoutQ was illegally showing hundreds of live European football matches.
It added they were being carried on the Saudi-based satellite provider Arabsat.
US company Cisco Systems, Swiss firm NAGRA and Overon, based in Spain, carried out the research for beIN.
BeIN claims that since last October the pirate channel beoutQ has been illegally transmitting its broadcasts.
Saudi Arabia and Arabsat have denied any links with beoutQ.
The piracy scheme operated during the 2018 World Cup in Russia after beIN said tournament matches were illegally broadcast.
The row has been dragging in major sporting federations, alarmed that expensively-acquired television rights may be at risk.
In July, FIFA said it was preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against pirate broadcasters.
The piracy issue has surfaced at a politically sensitive time in the Gulf, with Doha boycotted by Riyadh and other neighbours, in a highly fractious diplomatic and economic dispute.