DUBAI: A dispute between Fenerbahce and beIN Sports is threatening to develop into a full-blown crisis that could see the Qatari broadcasters walk away from Turkish football, according to a new report in the New York Times.
The controversy began when prerecorded supporter chants - which have been added to screenings since the Covid-19 pandemic led to matches being played behind closed doors - during broadcasts of Turkish Super Big matches have been revealed to be offensive in nature to Fenerbahce, one of the country’s most successful and richest clubs.
It is not the first time that the Istanbul-based club has claimed beIN Sports have an agenda against it, with previous accusations of negative coverage and analysis leading to boycotts of interviews, supporter protests and even a lawsuit in the Turkish courts.
BeIN Sports currently pays $360 million for the rights to cover the Turkish league but the ongoing dispute could now leave any future deals in jeopardy.
The consequences, for both sides, could be serious.
Fenerbahce, like the majority of top flight Turkish clubs, are in debt and loss of TV revenue would lead to further financial difficulties, though it must be pointed out that the Turkish League is already considering a new television rights sale.
Meanwhile, the broadcaster has maintained its innocence, explaining that in purely, finical terms, any negative targeting of particular club is self-sabotaging.
“Why would we deliberately try to disenfranchise one of the biggest clubs in Turkey?” a beIN Media Group spokesman was quoted as saying in the. New York Times article. “It doesn’t make any sense, commercially or otherwise.”
Should beIN Sports walk away from Turkish football it would be the latest loss of rights to major international sporting competitions in recent years.
The deal for Germany’s Bundesliga was not renewed at the start of the 2020-21 season while the one for Italy’s Serie A is also expiring soon.
It’s not only in football that this has happened, with beIN Sports last year losing the right to broadcast Formula One in the Middle East racing to MBC Action.
In Turkey, within the club itself and among the club’s vociferous supporters, the back-and-forth accusations and insults continue. There have been social media campaigns against beIN Sports and the broadcaster was barred from the press conference announcing Fenerbahce’s signing of German international Mesut Ozil.
The club’s players have even taken to the field with a slogan that said “beFAIR” in the colors of the broadcaster, leading beIN to take the case to court.
Meanwhile an apology by beIN Sports regarding the offensive chants has not managed to calm the situation, nor the announcement that two employees had been sacked and an investigation into the incident has been launched.