The Saudi Football Federation has filed a formal complaint with the International Federation of Football (FIFA) against Qatar-owned beIN Sports, accusing the broadcaster of ‘politicising’ the World Cup.
In the complaint sent to FIFA, the Saudi Football Federation accused beIN of “political media abuse” by its analysts and presenters after the World Cup opening match between Saudi Arabia and Russia, in which the kingdom lost 0-5.
The Saudi authority claimed that beIN Sports broadcast “political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders in the framework of incitement and spreading hatred among fans and people in the region”, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
It added that the actions represented a “continuation of many abuses repeated on previous occasions” that are “contrary to the laws of the International Federation, which stresses the exclusion of sport from politics”.
The Saudi Federation called on FIFA to take the “necessary and severe sanctions against the Qatari channel” to avoid the “exploitation of sport in the goals of political bias”. It also called for the withdrawal of the exclusive broadcasting rights granted to the channel for the World Cup or other World Cup competitions.
Qatar’s beIN Sports holds exclusive rights to air the tournament in the Middle East and North Africa, and has been blocked in Saudi Arabia since the kingdom cut ties with Doha last year.
The action comes after Turki al-Sheikh, the chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority, confirmed earlier this week that the kingdom was mulling legal action against beIN for its political bias during the World Cup.
Saudi’s formal complaint also comes after an online petition was created by the kingdom’s football fans urging FIFA to investigate the coverage by beIN Sports.
The website sports4everyone.org created the petition to protest the “politicisation” of World Cup coverage by the broadcaster.
“Sport rises above politics. FIFA tried to keep politics away from games. As fans, we are saddened by BeIN using its permission to telecast sports to transmit its political agenda, violating FIFA rules,” reads the petition, addressed to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The website also includes 10 video clips from beIN’s coverage of the match between Saudi and Russia to prove its point.
Among the signatories are Egyptian national football player Ahmed Hassan, former Saudi national team captain Yousif Althunaian and ex-Saudi players Hussein Abdulghani, Mohammed Noor and Majed Abdullah.
“It is necessary to notify FIFA of our grievance that beIN denied our ability to watch our football team free from political exploitation,” the petition reads.
“This violates World Cup Broadcasting Rights Law; beIN is the only channel where we can watch our team World Cup matches. BeIn is banned in Saudi Arabia. We call upon you to take immediate action against beIN,” it adds.
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