Saudi football fans are facing the prospect of missing their national team’s first appearance in the FIFA World Cup for 12 years, amid a dispute over broadcasting rights with Qatar.
Qatar’s beIN Sports holds exclusive rights to air the tournament in the Middle East and North Africa but its channels have been banned in Saudi Arabia since the kingdom enacted a boycott alongside the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt a year ago.
However, FIFA brokered deal to let Saudi Arabia air the opening game on June 14 – when the Saudi national team faces Russia – and 21 other matches for $35m, Saudi sports authority chairman Turki Al Alshikh told Bloomberg.
Now Al Alshikh is accusing Qatar of backtracking on the deal after Qatari representatives denied any agreement had been reached at a meeting between the two sides and FIFA this month.
BeIN responded by saying "preliminary discussions" had failed to deliver an agreement on price or other terms. FIFA in turn said the deal was still being discussed.