Saleh al-Shehri of Saudi Arabia celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal, en route to a 2-1 win over Argentina that stunned the world – Copyright AFP
Robbie COREY-BOULET and Haitham EL-TABEI
The official World Cup broadcast platform is inaccessible in much of Saudi Arabia, subscribers told AFP on Saturday, saying they had received no explanation for the outage.
The platform, Tod TV, is owned by Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group, which was banned in Saudi Arabia for several years during a dispute between the two countries, but was reinstated in October 2021.
“Due to matters beyond our control, we are experiencing an outage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently affecting TOD.tv, the Official Broadcast Partner of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. Additional information will be provided as soon as possible. As soon as possible. available,” beIN said in a message sent to partners and subscribers.
The Saudi government did not respond to a request for comment on the outage, while beIN declined to comment.
Tod TV is the official streaming service of the World Cup in 24 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Several subscribers in Saudi Arabia told AFP on Saturday that they had not been able to access the service since the World Cup began on November 20.
One said the service went completely out about an hour before the opening ceremony was broadcast.
Another said that the service still works briefly, but not more than 10 minutes before an error message appears.
“Sorry, the requested page is violating Ministry of Media regulations,” the error message reads.
“I want my money back,” one subscriber told AFP, saying efforts to get a refund for the service, which costs around 300 Saudi riyals (about $80) a month, had been unsuccessful.
beIN is broadcasting 22 World Cup matches for free in Saudi Arabia, including those of the Saudi Arabian Green Hawks, who shocked the world on Tuesday with their 2-1 defeat of Argentina.
The Saudi side was set to face Poland on Saturday afternoon.
– Mending ties –
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler for 37 years, orchestrated a regional boycott of Qatar starting in June 2017, the same month he became first in line to the throne.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over accusations that it supported extremists and was too close to arch-rival Iran, accusations that Doha denied.
During the boycott, beIN Media Group was banned in Saudi Arabia.
But Riyadh announced in October last year that it was lifting the ban, paving the way for the takeover of England’s Newcastle United soccer club by a Saudi-backed consortium.
The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund paid $408 million for an 80 percent stake in the Premier League club.
The Saudi purchase of Newcastle proved deeply controversial, with critics quick to mock it as an example of “sportswashing” or the use of athletics to distract attention from human rights abuses.
The sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund, is now considering investing in beIN, Bloomberg reported last month.
Media Minister Majid al-Qasabi is a board member of the fund.
Prince Mohammed attended the World Cup opening ceremony where he posed with his emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani while wearing a Qatari scarf.
Prince Mohammed also ordered all government ministries and agencies “to provide any additional support or facilities required by Qatar” to host the event, according to a Sports Ministry statement.