BeIN Sports takes Fenerbahce to court after months of tension
Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports is taking legal action against Turkish football club Fenerbahce for criticising its coverage by using a doctored version of the network’s logo.
On Sunday, the Istanbul-based club warmed up for their home match against Goztepe wearing t-shirts with the phrase “beFAIR” - in a clear dig at BeIN Sports. The altered branding could also be seen on the pitchside advertising hoardings and on 3-D carpets on the grass.
In recent months, Fenerbahce has accused the Qatari network of bias, including by manipulating video assistant referee (VAR) replays, choosing camera angles that favour opposing teams and excluding “positive” moments from the team’s play during highlights packages. BeIN Sports denies all allegations.
Two sources from within the network told Reuters that the company had launched legal action on Wednesday at a Turkish intellectual property court.
“We have seen the remarkable images and campaign breaching our intellectual property - which only harms the whole of Turkish football,” beIN Sports said in a statement.
“We will take whatever legal action necessary to protect our rights," it continued. "As we have shown before, we take an uncompromising approach to the protection of IP, not least because it is the economic foundation of football.”
BeIN Sports is locked in a long-standing intellectual property battle with Saudi Arabia. In June 2020, senior officials in Riyadh were adjudged to have promoted a pirate network that illegally simulcasted content from the sports network.
The scandal is thought to have been the key reason for the failure of a proposed Saudi takeover of English football club Newcastle United.
Months of controversy
The spat between Fenerbahce and beIN Sports came to a head on 10 January when the broadcaster appeared to use artificial crowd noise during a Turkish league game that included an offensive chant against the team's fans.
The club described the incident as the “last straw” in a statement on its website.
“Since the beginning of the season, we have warned the broadcaster many times at the highest level for its decisions and approaches that are out of line,” it said.
“With this latest agenda, it has become clear that the steps taken against Fenerbahce by the broadcaster have now been deliberately brought to an unimaginable level and will not be able to recover after this moment.”
The following day, the team’s players refused to discuss their 3-0 win against BB Erzurumspor, and instead used the opportunity to criticise beIN Sports. The broadcaster issued an apology for the incident, and an investigation led to two staff members being fired.
Fenerbahce's subsequent “beFAIR” campaign included the participation of new signing Mesut Ozil, who wore the training t-shirt on Sunday.
BeIN Sports claimed they were denied from attending the German-Turkish footballer’s unveiling last month despite being the league’s main broadcaster, according to a report by The Athletic.
Ozil’s big money transfer came despite reports that Fenerbahce are in over $550m of debt.
The club has appealed to its fans to help pay for their new midfielder by sending donations via text.
BeIN Sports provides one of the main sources of income for Turkish football, having signed a five year contract initially worth $500m in 2017 to have exclusive multi-platform rights to the league.
According to The Athletic, the Qatari broadcaster now has major doubts about whether to extend its deal beyond 2022 following the spat with Fenerbahce. An emergency meeting between the broadcaster and the Turkish Football Federation has been scheduled.