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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Saudi Arabia denies pirating World Cup broadcast

Saudi official says such claims were 'baseless' and 'unfounded'

Saudi football supporters react while watching their national team play during their Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match against Uruguay at a fan tent in the Red Sea coastal resort of Jeddah on June 20, 2018. Amer Hilabi / AFP
Saudi football supporters react while watching their national team play during their Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match against Uruguay at a fan tent in the Red Sea coastal resort of Jeddah on June 20, 2018. Amer Hilabi / AFP

Saudi Arabia denied accusations it was behind a television service that pirated the broadcast of World Cup games for which Qatar-based beIN Sports network holds the regional rights.

Saud Al Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said such claims were “baseless” and “unfounded”.

Football’s governing body Fifa said that television channel BeoutQ illegally broadcast the opening games of the World Cup.

It said it was "exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights, including in relation to action against legitimate organisations that are seen to support such illegal activities".

"These accusations are nothing but the latest attempt by Qatar to divert attention from their own malfeasance by pivoting discussion towards sports," he said in comments sent to Reuters.

"Qatari authorities have failed to provide any evidence at all to validate these accusations."

It remains unclear who owns and operates BeoutQ.

Global Sports network beIN Sports is blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott the kingdom imposed on Qatar in June last year. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Doha over its support of extremist groups and its interference in other countries’ affairs.

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Mr Qahtani said Saudi Arabia did not tolerate any infringement of intellectual property rights.

"It respects the importance of protecting intellectual rights and abiding by international conventions in this regard," he said.

"The Saudi authorities will continue their efforts to combat piracy and protect intellectual property and broadcasting rights."

He added the government had recently confiscated about 12,000 pirating devices from the market.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Media said that it also rejected the claims made against the country.

The ministry “understands that BeoutQ’s set-top boxes are available in many places, including Qatar and Eastern Europe”, it said in a statement.

“During the World Cup, beIN has defamed the Saudi Football Federation, insulted Saudi Arabia and its fans and has politicised the World Cup platform in violation of all rules and codes of conduct.

“For these reasons Al Jazeera and subsidiary beIN will never broadcast in Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia stopped the broadcasting of Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news channel last year after it provided a “terrorists” with a platform.