BeIN Sports TV channels are active again for both Etisalat and du subscribers, the telecoms giants have confirmed.
Several subscribers reported on Saturday morning that the channels were reinstated after being blocked for more than a month amid the political stand-off with Qatar, where the broadcaster is based.
Etisalat’s customer care team were unaware of any update to the block on the channels on Saturday morning but text messages were being sent out to subscribers confirming that the service would be available again, starting July 22, and that “normal charges would apply”.
“The provision of the beIN package will be subject to an ongoing review,” the text message added. Du subscribers were receiving similar messages on Saturday.
The news is music to the ears of sports fans ahead of the start of the football season in Europe as beIN has the exclusive rights in the region to broadcast the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and other major competitions, including the Champions League.
“We just switched on the TV and it was there, and we were like, ‘Yes!,” said Vanessa Northway, whose family of football fans support Liverpool and West Ham United, both in the EPL.
“It is good to have it back because we were still paying for it with Etisalat. It’s not like they just automatically removed it from the bill; you’re still paying for it. We missed most of the Tour De France, or at least the first part. There has been a lot of football as well that we missed, which is a shame. We’ve also missed Wimbledon as well but we’re pretty happy that it is back.”
Ms Northway’s son, Sam, said he had been upset when the channel went abruptly off air earlier this summer but he is thankful the blackout hadn’t occurred during the main football season, which starts again next month.
“We watch football every Saturday, it’s just something that we do, and I think everyone can relate to that all across the UAE - we all watch football,” said Sam.
Daniel Smith, who claims to be a Manchester United super fan, said the timing of the blackout couldn’t have been better.
“Thank God it’s not a World Cup year,” said Mr Smith. “If it was this time next year, a World Cup year, I think a lot of people in the UAE would have been annoyed but, to be honest, the impact was quite minimal just because of the timing. It was frustrating I think for fans of other sports like Wimbledon, potentially, and a few others that were on. But, for football, it being in the middle of June, the impact wasn’t that bad.”
Mr Smith said he also couldn’t have asked for a more opportune time for the sports package to come back on-air.
“Obviously it is great news. People will be able to watch sports again, watch football again just in time as well because the season is starting in a few weeks’ time, so it’s perfect timing, really,” he said.
On June 14, authorities in the UAE ordered vendors to stop selling beIN Sports receivers and cards, warning that any shop that violated the order would be subject to fines, according to the state news agency, Wam. About that time home subscribers through Etisalat and du also noticed that the channels were no longer available.
A number of sports bar operators affiliated with hotels contact by The National were reluctant to discuss the return of beIN Sports, saying they were waiting for official authorisation from hotel managers before flicking their screens back on.