(Bloomberg) -- Qatari broadcaster BeIn normally shows top-tier Italian soccer matches in 35 countries but on Saturday night, for anyone tuning in to watch Torino take on Parma, its screens were blank.
“No Serie A matches are being broadcast on Bein Sports’ entire global network,” a company spokesman said. “It would not be appropriate to comment further, other than to say our legal and public position has been consistent and well-documented for three years.”
BeIn paid $500 million to broadcast Italian soccer from 2018-21, an agreement that has been beset by snags. It claims strong backing from competitions including England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga and the Wimbledon tennis championships, as part of a long-running campaign against its sports rights being pirated in Saudi Arabia.
The company recently wrote to Premier League clubs to warn them against agreeing to a takeover deal with a Saudi-led consortium for Newcastle United. The Premier League board is currently deciding on whether to allow the deal to go through.
BeIn’s particular grievance with Serie A reached a tipping point when the league decided to play some exhibition matches in Saudi Arabia despite the broadcaster urging it not to. The league argued that it had signed a contract that was difficult to get out of.
The Italian league, which is said to be in discussions with private equity groups over refinancing, is the home to Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus. Serie A couldn’t immediately comment on the broadcast blackout.
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