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Qatar's beIN Sports ups campaign to stop 'piracy' from Saudi-linked channel

Website detailing extent of theft launched to coincide with Italian Supercoppa, which is being played in Jeddah
Ronaldo's Juventus face AC Milan in the Italian Supercoppa in Jeddah on Wednesday (AFP)

Qatar's beIN Sports media group has stepped up its campaign against what it believes to be Saudi-backed piracy of its programmes by launching a website to expose "industrial scale theft". 

The "reveal all" website went live on Wednesday with the aim of holding the pirate operation to account, a statement said.

"What started as a concerted and targeted campaign against beIN has now morphed into the largest commercial theft that's ever been seen in the world of sport and entertainment," Tom Keaveny, beIN's managing director in the Middle East region, said in the statement. 

"This Saudi-supported plague of piracy represents an existential threat to the economic model of the industry."

The website details programmes that broadcast illegally in more than 20 countries, has a timeline of events and points the finger at prominent Saudi figures under the headline: "The Saudi State-Supported Piracy of World Sport and Entertainment".

Singled out by the website is Saud al-Qahtani, the close advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has been implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Qahtani has been sanctioned over the murder by several Saudi allies, including the United States. He reportedly remains free and still has the prince's ear.

BeIN Sports is the region's top football broadcaster (AFP)
BeIN has previously alleged that since August 2017 a vast and sophisticated Saudi bootlegging network known as "beoutQ" had been transmitting its stolen programmes via Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.

In October, beIN launched a compensation claim worth $1 billion against the Saudi piracy channel while Qatar filed an action at the World Trade Organisation. But no progress has been reported so far.

FIFA and the English Premier League said they were preparing to take legal action in Saudi Arabia against the pirates.

Saudi Arabia has denied the claims and even said the piracy was operating out of Cuba.

The latest move comes amid a 19-month economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies which accuse Doha of backing terrorism and seeking closer ties with rival Iran.

Qatar has refuted the claims.

The website was launched on the day the Italian Supercoppa is played in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah, which beIN has called on to be moved elsewhere because of the piracy issue.

On Thursday Qatar and Saudi Arabia meet in a politically charged Asian Cup football match in the United Arab Emirates, which backs Riyadh in the diplomatic dispute.

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