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Egypt defies FIFA, says it will ensure FTA coverage of 22 World Cup matches

The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) has issued a statement criticising FIFA, soccer’s world body, and has defiantly stated that it will ensure that free terrestrial broadcasts of 22 matches from the World Cup.

Egypt has qualified for this year’s national team soccer tournament in Russia, which kicks off on Thursday. At present, Egyptian viewers can only legally watch the World Cup via Qatari pay-TV broadcaster beIN Sports, which holds the exclusive MENA broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup matches.

Subscribers have to reportedly buy a beIN decoder for approximately USD 91 (1,630 Egyptian Pounds) and pay a fee of more than $112 (2,000 Egyptian Pounds) to watch the World Cup. With average wages in the country being around $235, the subscription is beyond the means of many football fans.

The ECA posted a lengthy statement yesterday claiming that “infringements” to Egyptian competition law had been made by FIFA.

The statement read: “The ECA has ordered interim measures against FIFA based on prima facie finding of infringements to articles 7 and 8 of the Egyptian competition law as it was revealed that those infringements would cause serious and irreparable damage to the freedom of competition and consumers, insofar they will prevent consumers from receiving the right to watch the 2018 World Cup Russia under competitive and fair conditions.

“FIFA must make available immediately to the Egyptian National Media Authority the rights to live broadcast through terrestrial channels 22 selected matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.”

Referring to the 2011 deal between FIFA and beIN Sports (then Al Jazeera Sport), the Egyptian competition body claims that the contract was awarded “in absence of fair, or transparent or non-discriminatory tendering procedures.”

Highlighting the example of France, where a 28-match FTA rights deal with TF1 complemented a wide-ranging agreement with beIN, the ECA stated that “granting the full range of rights as a single bundled package exclusively to one single entity for such an extended period of time is contrary to FIFA’s established practice in other countries and regions worldwide.”

It remains unclear if FIFA will comply with the demand by the time the World Cup kicks off on Thursday.

As per media reports, FIFA declined to comment on ECA’s criticisms.

It is also interesting to note that the government of Egypt is one of FIFA’s first 2018 World Cup sponsors from Africa.