Revisiting sports rights

The recent ban of beIN Sports in some of the GCC countries has raised some pertinent questions that will compel international leagues and clubs, as well as regional sports authorities, to revisit the way sports rights have been sold thus far in the region. The scenario has left many sports fans disappointed and one of the ways to avoid that in the future may be to look at how other countries have addressed this.

In the UK, for instance, a ruling by the European Commission ensures that no single broadcaster has the rights to all of the matches within a championship.

The rights are broken up so there is a cap on the number of games to which each broadcaster can have the rights. This means that there is greater accessibility to sports from different bidders.

In our region, however, this poses some challenges, primarily because the countries do not all come under one common jurisdiction and there is no single legislative body that represents all of them for sports rights. I recall the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) actually brokering a deal on behalf of a number of public broadcasters and making a game available in different parts of the region, but that was a one-off.

In the absence of a regulatory body, increased bidding would push up the price of the rights of the matches and the lack of a solution would make all of us vulnerable. In turn, regional sports rights would become even less commercially viable.

Another challenge with breaking up the rights would be that consumers could be forced to purchase one box to watch one-third of the matches and another to watch the rest of them. This is also not appealing unless broadcasters collaborate to allow consumers to use one box.

The current situation, however, offers local sports authorities the perfect opportunity to give serious thought to sports broadcast rights and the need for a regulatory body within the region.