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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Football fans launch petition against beIN Sports’ Fifa World Cup coverage

It comes a day after the head of Saudi Arabia’s sports authority said the country is weighing legal action against the Qatari-funded broadcaster

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition against beIN Sports' coverage of the World Cup, claiming the Qatar-owned broadcaster was 'politicising' the competition. AFP
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition against beIN Sports' coverage of the World Cup, claiming the Qatar-owned broadcaster was 'politicising' the competition. AFP

Football fans have started a petition against beIN Sports’ “politicisation” of its Fifa World Cup coverage.

The petition on the sports4everyone.org website claims the Qatari government-funded broadcaster has breached World Cup broadcasting rights laws by using sport to “transmit its political agenda”.

It uses nine short clips from the coverage to state its case, including extremely offensive comments regarding Saudi Arabia after its Cup-opening loss to Russia last Thursday.

The petition says guests talked about the “losses of the Saudi team in a biased manner and described the loss against the Russian team as a disgrace and scandal, and that the Saudi Football Federation has mobilised its efforts for the US nomination for 2026 at the expense of their national team”.

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In a message addressed to Fifa President Gianni Infantino, the petition says “sport rises above politics”.

It says that beIN has “exploited its rights to aggravate the dispute between Qatar and Saudi, insulting our nations in the opening match”.

“It is necessary to notify Fifa of our grievance that beIN denied our ability to watch our football team free from political exploitation.

“This violates World Cup broadcasting rights law; beIN is the only channel where we can watch our team World Cup matches. BeIN is banned in Saudi Arabia. We call on you to take immediate action against beIN.”

The petition has 47,000 signatures, including sports stars such as Ahmed Hassan, the Egyptian footballer and most capped male international in history.

The complaint comes a day after Turki Al Sheikh, head of Saudi Arabia’s sports authority, said the country was considering legal action against the Qatari-funded broadcaster.

Mr Al Sheikh said beIN exploited sport for political goals in some of its commentary after Saudi’s 5-0 loss to Russia. This proves the country was correct in blocking the channel, he said on Twitter.

The Qatari broadcaster owns sole streaming rights across the Mena region for major sporting competitions such as the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and the Fifa World Cup.

The beIN channel was blocked in the UAE for more than a month last year after the boycott of Qatar by the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Although the service was reinstated, it was not initially clear whether Fifa World Cup games would be streamed on du or Etisalat, and beIN was briefly unavailable on the du network a few weeks ago.

But Etisalat and du have since launched World Cup packages. Viewers can buy a package to watch all 64 games on Etisalat for Dh555, while du is charging Dh551 for the same service.

The beIN service has not been reintroduced to Saudi Arabia since the boycott, and on Tuesday it emerged that the country had shut down more than 4,000 devices streaming hacked sports channels and launched legal action against those involved.

The sweep is the latest is a series of actions taken by the kingdom to crack down on devices used to bootleg sports channels. More than 8,000 devices have been confiscated from retailers in recent weeks, the authorities say.

Legal proceedings have been launched.