FIFA have been caught up in a new huge international political incident after Saudi Arabia BLOCKED World Cup TV coverage for their OWN fans.
Qatar-based broadcaster beIN created an official streaming channel, TOD, to broadcast the tournament across the entire Middle East and North Africa Arabic-speaking region.
But Saudi authorities stepped in to block the signal from being received by fans in the country, leaving Fifa scrambling to try to bring a compromise.
But the Saudi Ministry of Media publicly confirmed it had ended access to the service inside the country.
It is not a total block of the World Cup, as 22 of the 64 matches at the tournament are available in the country on a free-to-air service.
Millions of Saudi fans, though, have been denied the chance to see most of a World Cup taking place in its neighbouring country.
The act has incensed the Qataris, who have broken a peace deal with their near neighbours in recent months after years of wrangling and a lengthy Saudi-led blockade of the small state by many of their Gulf neighbours.
Qatari anger is all the more intense given the Saudi Public Investment Fund – which includes Newcastle in its global portfolio – has been trying to buy a stake in beIN and agreed a massive advertising deal only last month.
Saudi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, was pictured arm in arm with Qatar’s ruling Emir at the opening game and has publicly ordered all ministries and government institutions to support the World Cup.
The brouhaha has left Fifa in a quandary and senior figures at the world body have privately admitted their “concern” at what is felt to be a “mess”.
Qatar is demanding tougher action from the world governing body with senior state representatives voicing their disquiet, at the highest levels, over the lack of a significant response.