CAIRO: Egyptian football fans have slammed the high cost of watching their team as Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN comes under fire for pricey World Cup packages.
Egyptian beIN subscribers need to purchase a decoder for 1,630 Egyptian pounds ($91) and pay an annual subscription of 2,280 Egyptian pounds. World Cup games are only available through a subscription of more than 2,000 Egyptian pounds.
Existing subscribers can get a discount, but the outlay is still equivalent to about two weeks wages for the average Egyptian.
“I find it massively overpriced,” said Rana Sobhy, who said that she purchased a beIN receiver but cannot justify paying the fee.
Still, some Egyptian cafe owners are celebrating as fans who cannot afford to watch the games at home are opting to watch the World Cup in cafes who have paid to show the games.
Mohamed Fathy has been cramming more tables outside his cafe in Maadi in preparation for Egypt’s opening game against Uruguay on Friday.
“The fact that the World Cup subscription is expensive for most people is actually good for my business. It means less people will be able to afford it and more people will come to my cafe; so I will greatly benefit from that,” he said.
“I’m expecting an unprecedented number of visitors on the days when Egypt will play because it’s the first time our national team has played in the World Cup since people have had to pay to watch the matches. Everything was free in the past.”
The Egyptian Competition Authority said on Sunday that it had decided to “enforce its authority” and “compel FIFA to give the right for direct ground transmission to the (Egyptian) National Media Authority” for 22 World Cup matches. But it is not clear if FIFA will comply with the demand by the time the World Cup kicks off on Thursday.
Many fans want the government to intervene to help Egyptians afford to watch the matches at home.
“It has been 28 years since we have been to a World Cup. This is a historic event for the country,” said Mohammed Tawfik, a 30-year-old engineer from Cairo.
“I believe the Egyptian Football Federation should find a solution and get involved to avail at least the Egyptian matches to be given the extra ordinary prices.”
Emad Hassan, 50, also from Cairo, agreed.
“It should be free — at least for the poor people. Everything is by subscription. This is not right.”
But in a country that has been struggling with double-digit inflation, the rollback of subsidies and the introduction of VAT, not all Egyptians believed that would be a good use of their taxes.
“We are in a tough situation economically and the government does not have the capability to buy such rights,” said 60-year-old Hajj Mohammed Attia, from Cairo.
“We should focus on other important things, frankly. Pay three to five Egyptian pounds to any cafe and go watch the match — you don’t need government involvement for such a trivial matter.”
BeIN was not immediately available for comment.