Saudi lodges official complaint against beIN Sports for World Cup coverage

The Qatari broadcaster has been accused of inserting political commentary into its coverage on at least nine occasions
Saudi lodges official complaint against beIN Sports for World Cup coverage
Roman Zobnin of Russia is challenged by Yasir Alshahrani of Saudi Arabia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group A match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, 2018 in Moscow, Russia.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Tue 19 Jun 2018 09:46 AM

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation has filed a formal complaint with FIFA alleging that Qatari-financed broadcaster beIN Sports has used its coverage of the World Cup to broadcast political messages critical of Saudi Arabia, it was announced on Monday night.

According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the complaint to FIFA “rejected” what it terms “political media abuse” from beIN commentators following Saudi Arabia’s opening game against hosts Russia.

The SPA report added that the comments are “a continuation of many abuses repeated on previous occasions and international participations that are contrary to the laws of the international federation, which stresses the exclusion of sports from politics.”

The Saudi Federation is calling on FIFA to take “necessary and severe sanctions” against beIN to “protect the system”, including “interference and withdrawal of exclusive rights granted to the channel in the World Cup or other World Cup competitions”, SPA added.

The complaint comes just days after a petition was circulated which included a pre-written message addressed to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, calling on FIFA to take action against beIN sports.

The petition’s website – sports4everyone.org – includes video clips of nine separate instances in which beIN’s Arabic-language commentators made political comments on-air, as well as a number of screenshots of political Tweets and image grabs of politicised coverage on television.

The images include a screengrab of an interview with former Barcelona player and Spanish international Xavi Hernandez in which he calls for the blockage against Qatar to be lifted. Hernandez currently players for Qatar’s Al Sadd SC.

Since being put online early this week, nearly 104,000 people have signed the petition and sent the message.

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