Saudi Arabia curbs access to Qatar-linked sports broadcaster

Gulf kingdom calls time on new subscriptions to bein Sports as diplomatic row continues to escalate

Saudi Arabia has called time out on new subscriptions to Qatar-linked satellite television network beIn Sports, a major broadcaster of international football across the region.

The measure is the latest move against Qatar, after the Gulf kingdom and its allies last week cut diplomatic ties with Doha.

Saudi Arabia has suspended subscription sales and renewals, as well as beIn Sports receiver imports, its audiovisual authority said in a statement late Monday.

It said it took action because beIn Sports lacked "prior authorisations", but added existing subscribers would be unaffected.

The broadcaster's website was blocked as of Tuesday in Saudi Arabia, although customers in the kingdom told AFP they were still receiving its television programmes.

But an adviser to the Saudi royal court, Saud al-Qahtani, hinted on Twitter that the whistle might also soon be blown on beIn Sports coverage.

"There is a huge legal loophole in their monopoly of the broadcast rights," he said of beIn Sports, which offers coverage of football and a variety of other sports.

Qahtani said there would soon be "alternative solutions, free or for a nominal fee".

Bahrain, which has also severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, has taken similar measures against the broadcaster, the official BNA news agency said early Tuesday.

Since last week, beIn Sports, a subsidiary of the Al-Jazeera global news network, has no longer been accessible on two television providers in the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are leading the diplomatic and economic isolation of gas-rich Qatar, which they accuse of supporting extremist groups.

Qatar rejects the allegations.

Saudi Arabia last week ordered shut the local office of Al-Jazeera, which has been banned from the airwaves in the kingdom as well as in the United Arab Emirates.

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