Sunday, June 10, 2018

Karmic Payback? Saudi Football Fans May Miss Their Team's World Cup Opening Match

One Way the Blockade Effects 
People and not Just Governments

I am writing several book chapters for an upcoming book on the blockade of Qatar. In one chapter I described attacks on the media by the countries starting the blockade – Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Bahrain, and Egypt. Among other things, the countries blocked Al Jazeera broadcasts and other media originating from Qatar.

I stated that the media blockade serve at least two purposes. It keeps an opposing narrative about Qatar from reaching people in the blockading countries. It also limits access to programming popular with conservative Muslim audiences.

In that chapter, I also described the Saudis relationship with sport broadcaster beIn Sports:
Saudi Arabia also blocked access to the ubiquitous and highly popular, Qatar-financed, beIN Sports on June 13, 2018. The station has about 5,000 staffers working in 43 countries. The U.A.E blocked access for six weeks before restoring it on July 22, 2018. Police had ejected and questioned beIN reporters attending sports events in the blockading countries or required them to remove company logos from equipment. The blockading countries would not allow marketing of the company or the sale of subscriptions, and they have encouraged their athletes to boycott any interviews with beIN. Countries sympathetic to the siege have prevented beIN staff from entering their countries to cover events. A pirate station also began working in Saudi Arabia. Then in January 2018, Egypt’s top prosecutor indicted beIN’s CEO, Nassar Al-Khelaifi, on charges of monopolistic practices.
See Paula Marie Young, "Power-Based Interventions of Countries Organizing the Siege Against Qatar," Qatar: Political, Economic, and Social Issues (Nova Science Pubs. expected 2019).

In what some people would characterized as Karmic payback, the Gulf Times reported on June 9, 2018 that negotiations between beIN and Saudi Arabia have broken down. beIN owns the rights to broadcast all 64 games of the World Cup. The £25 million sub-licensing deal would allow the broadcast in Saudi Arabia of the opening and closing match plus 20 other games of the World Cup.

The 21st World Cup begins on June 14, 2018 in Russia. If the negotiation fails, Saudi fans will have to watch the games through pirated broadcasts at locations with that broadcast capability. They will not be able to watch, from the comfort of their homes, their own team play in the opening match with Russia.

beIN has reached a sub-licensing deal with the U.A.E.

The Saudis have now asked FIFA to negotiate the deal on their behalf.  Its football federation later filed a complaint with FIFA. For more on this aspect of the story see here and here.

Saudi Arabia said it would broadcast the matches illegally, which triggered a response from FIFA and beIn Sports.

FIFA later imposed a hefty fine on Egypt's football team because Egyptian players refused to give beIn interviews.

Clearly, the blockading countries did not anticipate that the blockade would extend into this important football tournament. They erroneously expected Qatar to capitulate quickly to the demands of the blockading countries. Instead, Qatar creatively responded to the siege. See Paula Marie Young, "The Siege of Qatar: Creating a BATNA that Strengthened the Tiny Country’s Negotiating Power," Qatar: Political, Economic, and Social Issues (Nova Science Pubs. expected 2019).

Update: On June 13, 2018, Qatari officials announced that they had created three fan zones in different terminals of Qatar's international airport that would allow travelers to watch World Cup matches in their entirety.

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