Saudi Arabia in discussions with FIFA to secure right of citizens in watching World Cup matches

Saudi Arabia's defender Omar Hawsawi plays the ball during the international friendly football match between Germany and Saudi Arabia at the BayArena stadium in Leverkusen, western Germany, on June 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2018

Saudi Arabia in discussions with FIFA to secure right of citizens in watching World Cup matches

  • Monday is the deadline for negotiations to determine how Saudis will watch national team

JEDDAH: Negotiations between the General Sports Authority (GSA) and FIFA to allow coverage of the World Cup in the Kingdom, a Saudi Arabian sports official has told Arab News. 

The Middle East rights to show the tournament are held by Qatar-owned beIN Sports, which is not authorized to air in Saudi Arabia. But with the big kick-off just four days away FIFA is under pressure to find a solution which will allow Saudi football fans to watch the Green Falcons’ progress in Russia. 

The hope is that Saudi Arabia will be able to air 22 World Cup clashes, including all of Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side’s Group A matches. The Arab News source revealed that the final deadline to find a solution is tomorrow.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg in Zurich, GSA chief Turki Al-Shaikh accused Qatar of backtracking from a FIFA-brokered deal to let the Kingdom air the opening and closing games as well as 20 other encounters for $35 million. He said details of the agreement had been relayed by FIFA officials. But the Qataris, who later met with FIFA and Saudi Arabian representatives at the FIFA headquarters this month, said agreement had not been reached on the sum.

 “Saudi Arabia has shown good faith” Al-Shaikh said.

The Green Falcons face hosts Russia in the opening match of the tournament in Moscow on Thursday. It is the first time the side have been in the World Cup for 12 years, with hopes and excitement high. But that has all been seemingly dealt a knee-high tackle by the dispute. 

And many Saudis are understandably upset. 

“I am annoyed an disappointed at the political interference in sport,” Abdullah Al-Hudaithi told Arab News.

“This World Cup is the biggest sporting event for the country in a long time and everyone should be able to watch it free of charge, let alone having to pay for it. 

“There are black market alternatives but a lot of people stand to miss out on watching Saudi Arabia at the World Cup. It’s a shame and I am disappointed.”

That view was echoed by Pat Janssen, CEO of Al-Shabab, who said the dispute was getting in the way of a big sporting moment for the country. "Of course, the people in Saudi Arabia have to see the World Cup,” he told Arab News. 

“This is a country that lives and breathes football like I've never seen.  “The fact that there may be limitations from BeIn Sports is a big shame, a huge shame. Remember, apart from the final, the opening game is the most watched after the final. Fans in Saudi Arabia need to see it. They deserve it.”

One leading commentator has called on FIFA to find a solution so fans  such as Al-Hudaithi can watch their beloved side take on the world’s best, such is the importance of the World Cup. 

“Economics and politics aside, mega-events such as the World Cup are so important to national and international well-being and self-esteem, that it is vital as many people as possible get the opportunity to watch the tournament,” Simon Chadwick, professor of Sports Enterprise at Salford University, said. “As such, FIFA needs to be decisive and assertive, it should not be cautious in feeling that it may need to take sides. In many respects, it is arguable that watching the World Cup is, in essence, a basic human right.”

Arab News asked FIFA for comment but did not hear back from football’s governing body. 


Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

Updated 12 November 2019

Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

  • Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at FT
  • Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain

LONDON: Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf will become the first woman to edit the Financial Times in its 131-year history after Lionel Barber, Britain’s most senior financial journalist, said he would step down.
Barber said on Tuesday he would leave in January after 14 years as editor and 34 years at the Nikkei-owned newspaper, which had one million paying readers in 2019, with digital subscribers accounting for more than 75% of total circulation.
Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at the salmon-pink FT and in recent years has sought to increase diversity in the newsroom and attract more female readers, while also becoming the publication’s first Arab editor.
“It’s a great honor to be appointed editor of the FT, the greatest news organization in the world.
“I look forward to building on Lionel Barber’s extraordinary achievements,” said Khalaf, whose earlier writing for Forbes magazine had earned her a small role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Her article described the leading character Jordan Belfort as sounding like a twisted version of Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers.
Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain and one of few leading female editors in the world after Jill Abramson left the New York Times.
Before joining the FT in 1995, Khalaf worked at Forbes in New York and earned a master’s at Columbia University and graduated from Syracuse University.
Tsuneo Kita, chairman of Japan’s Nikkei which bought the FT from Pearson in 2015, said in a statement Khalaf was chosen for her sound judgment and integrity.
“We look forward to working closely with her to deepen our global media alliance.”
Nikkei’s Kita described Barber as a strategic thinker and true internationalist, adding he was very sad to see him leave.
“However, both of us agree it is time to open a new chapter,” he said.
During his time as editor, Barber engineered a successful push into online subscription that protected the title as others battled an unprecedented collapse in advertising revenue, as well as managing the move to a new owner.