LONDON: Saudi Arabian authorities have permanently revoked the license of beIN Sports after accusing the Qatari-owned channel of illegal monopolizing practices.
The General Authority for Competition (GAC) released a statement revealing its decision and announcing it had also slapped beIN Sports with a SR10 million ($2.6 million) fine due to the alleged violations.
“The GAC clarified it has received many complaints from citizens and participants against beIN Sports since March 2016 for violating competition rules in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” it said in a statement.
The GAC accused the Qatari-owned channel of exploiting its dominant position in the run-up to the 2016 European Championships, forcing fans wanting to watch the football tournament to subscribe to other channels, including non-sports ones.
In addition, football-hungry viewers were forced to renew their subscription to the main channels for an entire year as a condition to watch the Euros, even though their subscription should have covered the period during which the competition, won by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, took place.
In April last year, beIN Sports was hit with a fine of SR10,000 and ordered to stop the monopolizing practices.
“These are clear violations of the competition’s rules. The board of directors thus decided to take the appropriate measures to end these practices and the monopoly violations committed by BeIN,” the statement said at the time.
It is beIN’s failure to implement changes that has resulted in the complete revoking of its license. The channel appealed against the 2017 decision before the administrative court of the board of grievances in Riyadh. The administrative justice found the case of BeIN Sport against the GAC inadmissible.
As a result, the channel’s license was permanently revoked and it was hit with the mammoth fine.
The move is the latest in a long-running dispute between the Kingdom and the Qatari channel. Saudi authorities have accused beIN Sports of engaging in a media smear campaign against the country.
During the World Cup the channel was also accused of infringing broadcasting standards by “politicizing” coverage of the football tournament.
It led legal experts to claim that FIFA should launch an investigation into why the broadcaster brought politics into play during coverage of World Cup games.
The broadcaster was not immediately available for comment.