The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has lodged an official complaint with Fifa over beIN Sports’ World Cup coverage, which it says includes "insulting" political messages aimed at the kingdom and its leadership.
The Qatari-government funded network – which owns the sole broadcasting rights to the tournament in the region – has used its coverage to spread "hatred among fans and people in the region", according to the Saudi Football Federation.
The complaint follows beIN’s coverage of the opening match between Saudi Arabia and Russia — in which the Saudi national team lost 5-0 — when presenters and analysts made a series of comments about politics in the kingdom.
However, the federation says in its complaint that offensive remarks have been made repeatedly and on "previous occasions".
The SAFF complaint claims beIN's commentary is contrary to the laws of Fifa, which stresses the exclusion of sport from politics. BeIN's sister news network Al Jazeera's coverage is considered one of the factors behind the crisis in the Gulf, with Qatar's neighbours demanding that it be shut down for giving a platform to extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
The move follows the launch of a petition on the sports4everyone.org website against the “politicisation” of the Qatari broadcaster’s coverage. Addressed to the Fifa president Gianni Infantino, the petition calls on Fifa to take immediate action against the channel and has attracted more than 102,000 signatures.
In its complaint, the Saudi federation called on Fifa to "to take the necessary and severe sanctions" against beIN, including taking away the network's exclusive broadcast rights for the World Cup.
The beIN network has been blocked in the kingdom since the boycott of Qatar was initiated by the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in June last year.
World Cup games have been broadcast on BeIN's network carrying a ticker at the bottom referring to piracy of its feed in the region by an entity called BeoutQ, with host Richard Keys also mentioning it during the coverage. Fifa has also made a statement on the issue.
On Monday, Saudi media reported that the country's authorities had confiscated more than 4,000 devices streaming hacked sports channels and legal action has been launched against those involved.
The sweep is the latest is a series of actions taken by the kingdom to crack down on devices used to bootleg sports channels, Arab News reported. More than 8,000 devices have been confiscated from retailers in recent weeks, the authorities said. Legal proceedings have also been launched.