Saudi Arabia’s plans to host the next Supercoppa are up in the air after Serie A took legal action over TV piracy in the country, explains Anthony Harwood.
The next edition of the Italian Super Cup is set for August between Scudetto holders Juventus and Coppa Italia winners Lazio.
Luigi De Siervo, the new boss of the top Italian league, said illegal transmissions by the rogue channel BeoutQ were putting a third of its international TV rights, worth about €450m, at risk.
The Riyadh-based station has been pirating on an industrial scale the output of beIN Sports, which is based in rival Qatar, for almost two years.
But beIN Sports is threatening to re-evaluate how much it pays for TV rights across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region because so many people are able to watch pirated content for free.
De Siervo’s predecessor, Marco Brunelli, signed a €7m deal with Saudi Arabia for the Supercoppa – played between the winners of the Italian League and the country’s cup competition - to be held in Jeddah twice over four years.
The decision to go ahead with the first fixture in January was met with opposition from beIN Sports, over BeoutQ’s piracy of Serie A which the Qatar channel had paid for.
In addition, human rights campaigners were also up in arms as the Juventus-Milan fixture came only three months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi embassy.
Politicians also complained that women fans would not be allowed to attend the match unaccompanied, as is the custom in Saudi Arabia.
“Serie A is next to beIN Sports against BeoutQ in the fight against piracy,” said De Siervo on Thursday. “For Serie A this is a fundamental area, from which about a third of international TV rights arrive.
“We have already taken legal action, we will start shortly to make a strong campaign towards our Government and other Governments to bring the BeoutQ phenomenon to the total reduction.”
BeoutQ was launched following a Riyadh-led diplomatic and trade boycott of the Qatar which meant that sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, Champions League, Premier League and Serie A were not available in Saudi Arabia.
The piracy has now spread so far and wide that it is the subject of a lawsuit at the World Trade Organisation, and been attacked by the BBC and Sky over illegal broadcasts across Europe.
beIN CEO, Yousef al-Obaidly, was furious with Serie A when the deal between Serie A and Saudi Arabia was originally announced.
“Among all the countries in the world that you could have chosen to host your race, you have chosen the only country that supports the theft even of your contents on an industrial scale. I ask if it is appropriate to proceed with the Super Cup match in Jeddah.”