BeIN Sports loses out in Egypt for breach of competition rules

Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the chief executive of Qatar's BeIN Media Group and president of French soccer club Paris St Germain (PSG). BeIN was hit with a anti-trust fine by an Egyptian court this week. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2018
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BeIN Sports loses out in Egypt for breach of competition rules

LONDON: The outlook for Qatari-owned sports broadcaster BeIN in Egypt has worsened after it was hit by a fine of 400 million Egyptian pounds ($22.7 million) for breaching competition rules.
Qatar’s BeIN Sports chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is also the president of Paris Saint-Germain, was fined by an Egyptian court on Monday, AFP reported.
The ruling — confirmed by a court on March 12 — comes after BeIN announced on Feb. 20 that it will be broadcasting this year’s Fifa World Cup held in Russia across six of its sports channels, broadcasting live for 14 hours every day of the tournament.
The World Cup is of particular interest in the Middle East this year with four Arab nations; Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, taking part in the competition for the first time in history.
The fine slapped on BeIN highlights the close scrutiny paid to the granting of lucrative sports media rights in many countries, particularly those with fairly new competition legislation, AFP reported.
According to local press, the Egyptian Competition Authority said BeIN had made Egyptian customers replace their existing satellites in order to access BeIN services during the last African Football Cup held in Gabon.
The authority also raised concerns about the way subscriptions were sold, saying it forced viewers to buy sports bundles which included programming they weren’t interested in watching.
Alex Haffner, partner, sports business group at Fladgate law firm, in London, said that sports media rights often face scrutiny as they can potentially generate huge advertising revenue from advertisers keen to catch the eye of millions of sports fans.
“Competition and other regulatory authorities have historically paid a close interest to sports media rights and, specifically, the way they are tendered, packaged and sold to consumers.
“This is borne of the fact that such rights are typically a powerful medium to reach certain viewers, notably those who are highly prized by advertisers but not always easy to engage with via the medium of broadcast, and therefore tend to have a significant impact on competition in the broadcast markets on which they are exploited,” he said.
It could be additionally challenging where competition law is still in its “infancy,” he said, including Egypt in this category. The North African country introduced its competition law in 2005, but only started fully implementing it in the last few years, said Haffner.
“They have less established precedent to rely on and are more prone to being influenced by external factors. It therefore becomes more difficult to forward plan and map out how those authorities are likely to view particular business practices.
“That said, such ‘newer’ authorities, if treated with due reverence and respect are more likely to be open to closer co-operation and engagement with those they regulate,” he said.
The ruling against BeIN also reflects the wider geopolitical environment, with relations between Qatar and Egypt are already deteriorating due to the continued boycott of Qatar by the Saudi-led coalition of states, which includes Egypt, which began in mid-2017.
The reasons behind the boycott are said to be due to Qatar’s alleged support of terror groups — a claim Qatar denies.
“Egypt-Qatar relations were already very tense,” said Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow and deputy head, MENA program at Chatham House in London.
“Egypt’s grievances against Qatar include a variety of grievances with Qatari media, primarily Al-Jazeera, so Qatar is likely to see this court case as a politicized decision, whether it is or not.
“However, the boycott has never been absolute. A variety of economic relations have continued, including the presence of Egyptians working in Qatar. This decision may underline the pre-existing tensions but is unlikely to be a game-changer,” she said.
BeIN did not respond to Arab News requests for comment. The Egyptian Competition Authority also did not respond to requests for comment.


World Cup football fakes keep Dubai’s ‘Dolce & Karama’ traders busy

Updated 22 June 2018
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World Cup football fakes keep Dubai’s ‘Dolce & Karama’ traders busy

  • Dubai's “Dolce and Karama” is the emirate's copycat capital
  • Neymar Jr shirts are proving especially popular with local shoppers

DUBAI: Tucked away in an old residential district and far from Dubai’s glitzy air-conditioned malls, the Karama area of the city is doing a roaring trade in selling World Cup football shirts.

But if you’re looking for the genuine article, you may have come to the wrong place.

Karama is Dubai's copycat capital where the knockoff imitations of the world's most famous fashion brands are sold for a fraction of the genuine price.

Known to some locals jokingly by the epithet “Dolce and Karama,” a play on the Dolce & Gabbana Italian fashion house, this is a place where if you have to ask the price, you probably can afford it.

With three weeks to go until football’s new world champions are crowned, the world’s biggest sporting tournament is keeping the tills chiming on the street that has become notorious for selling everything from fake Luis Vuitton bags to knockoff Ray-Ban sunglasses.

However since the tournament kicked off just over a week ago, it’s been football not fashion, that has put a smile on the face of traders.

Retailing for a fraction of their high-street cost, the copycat shirts — especially those bearing the name of Brazilian superstar Neymar — are flying off the stalls less than week into the tournament, as UAE-based fans who want to don the colors of their favorite team or player, look for bargains.

Mohammad Ashraf has been trading in Dubai’s Karama Shopping Complex for 15 years.

At his store, Mina Fashion, Ashraf said the World Cup has brought a booming trade.

When asked how many shirts he would sell prior to the Fifa World Cup, he shrugged.

“Maybe one, two — maximum five a day,” he said.

But the Indian trader has quadrupled his business since last week’s kick-off.

“Now, we have been very busy,” he said. “We sell at least 20 pieces a day — maybe more,” he said.

His football shirts are a fraction of the cost of the genuine article on sale in Dubai malls where retailers are feeling the pressure from the growth of online rivals, the introduction of VAT and the strong dollar to which the UAE dirham is pegged — that is hitting tourist spending hard.

Karama football shirts sell for about 65 dirhams ($18) in adult size and 55 dirhams for children. But the real deal costs three or four times as much a few miles down the road in the Dubai Mall, the city’s biggest tourist draw.

In Karama, the football shirts of the Brazil, Argentina and Germany teams have been among the biggest sellers.

And the most popular player?

Ashraf said shirts bearing the name of Brazilian footballer Neymar da Sila Santos Junior have been flying off the shelves.

Abdulla Javid, runs Nujoom Al Maleb in the Karama shopping district — a shop selling a variety of knock-off sportswear — including World Cup shirts for men, youths and children.

“They are not real, not branded — branded ones are very expensive,” he said.

“We have shirts for Germany, for Argentina, for Portugal, for Sweden, for Brazil and for Belgium,” he said, pointing to racks of multi-colored football shirts.

Mens shirts retail for about 45 dirhams for adult sizes in his shop and 40 dirhams for youths. For young children, he sells shirts and shorts for a combined price of 30 dirhams.

The World Cup has also been a welcome boom for business.

“Before we sell maybe between five to 10 (shirts) a day,” he said. “Now, at least 20 to 30 pieces a day. It has been very busy. This time is a good time for us.”

Also at Karama Shopping Complex is Zico Sports.

Ahmed Jaber, a 53-year-old trader, said there are good deals to be found in at the shop he has worked in since the 1980s.

He sells football shirts that are both “branded” and “non-branded” — in other words the genuine article and cheaper knock-offs.

He said customers have been happy to shell out for the genuine football shirts for the adult sizes — which he sells for 379 dirhams, but for children, shoppers prefer to buy the fake football shirts, which he sells for about 30 dirhams.

The most popular shirts since the start of World Cup have been for Brazil, Argentina and France, he said, but his shops have an abundance of kit for all competing countries.

When he asked how the 2018 World Cup had been for business, he laughed.

“Not bad at all!,” he said.