Al Jazeera has 'FIFA backing' to tackle World Cup woes

UPDATE 3: FIFA condemns 'appalling' act as sports channel sees continuing problems.
Al Jazeera has 'FIFA backing' to tackle World Cup woes
BACKUP PLAN: Al Jazeera Sport has implemented its contingency plan to minimise future World Cup disruption which has been blamed on saboteurs. (Getty Images)
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 12 Jun 2010 02:11 PM

The general manager of Al Jazeera Sport said on Saturday that the company had implemented a "back up plan" to minimise future disruption to its FIFA World Cup coverage, adding that it had the full backing of FIFA to tackle the problem.

Nasser Al Khelaifi told Arabian Business in a telephone interview that the people responsible for "destroying our signal" would be found "very soon".

However, later on Saturday, the broadcaster experienced further technical problems, notably during the Argentina v Nigeria match, as protests mounted up on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Al Khelaifi said that the TV station had the "full backing" of World Cup organisers FIFA to find the culprits he accused of deliberately jammed the Nilesat and Arabsat satellites.

In a statement, FIFA said: "FIFA is supporting Al Jazeera in trying to locate the source of the interference in the broadcast of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. FIFA is appalled by any action to try to stop Al Jazeera's authorised transmissions of the FIFA World Cup as such actions deprive football fans from enjoying the world game in the region. It is not acceptable to FIFA."

Al Jazeera Sport suffered major technical problems during its broadcast of the opening World Cup match between South Africa versus Mexico on Friday.

Al Khelaifi said: "The people who were responsible did not steal the TV rights of Al Jazeera yesterday, they stole the viewers' rights because this was a match that was being broadcast free to everyone. Of course we have been in contact with FIFA and they are supporting us to find them [the people responsible]."

He added that Al Jazeera was working with "a number of international specialised companies" to track down the culprits and that he was confident they would be found soon.

In a statement released earlier, the TV company said: “Al Jazeera Sport would like to condemn the actions of those involved in the deliberate attempts to block its signal during its World Cup broadcasts yesterday", adding that it was a "deliberate act of sabotage".

Al Khelaifi told Arabian Business that its contingency plan to minimise future disruption was now in operation but added that he could not say if future satellite attacks would happen during the football tournament.

"I think these people are sick," he said, adding that everything was being done to ensure the best possible TV coverage for the rest of the tournament.

Technical problems hit the beginning of the coverage by the Qatar based TV station with its special World Cup channels frozen or broadcasting in the wrong language in a number of countries across the Middle East.

For most of the first half an hour of the first game between hosts South Africa and Mexico, viewers were left with no picture or a frozen screen.

The issues appeared to have been sorted out shortly before half time but problems persisted throughout the second half of the match.

The second match of the night - France v Uruguay - was unaffected.

Al Khelaifi could not put a figure on how many viewers were affected by the disruption on Friday but said that 85m people had tuned in for Al Jazeera's coverage of the Champions League Final last month.

Broadcasting rights across the region are exclusively owned by Al Jazeera Sport.

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