F1 streaming through a pirate service broadcasting the race in France is 'multi-million dollar operation'

A new online streaming service hosting F1 races for free has prompted Formula One’s governing body to wade into an international dispute about the illegal broadcasting of live sporting events.

The piracy row comes ahead of the first French Grand Prix in a decade, set to start at 3.10pm BST on Sunday, 24 June, at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

The race will be broadcast in the UK on Sky Sports F1 and in the US on ESPN 2, with current world champion Lewis Hamilton in pole position for the third time this season.

But F1 authority, the FIA, is more focussed on broadcasts from BeoutQ, a pirate service that has allegedly been stealing signal from a legitimate broadcaster and streaming it illegally.

“It has come to our attention that certain Formula 1 content from the 2018 FIA Formula One Championship has been illegally transmitted by the channel known as BeoutQ operating primarily within the MENA region,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement provided to The Independent.

“BeoutQ has not acquired any rights from Formula 1 to transmit coverage of the FIA Formula One Championship. Formula 1 takes intellectual property infringement of this nature extremely seriously, we are looking in to the issue and those that are involved and will take appropriate action.”

The same channel hosting pirated live streams of Formula One championship races has also been accused of illegally broadcasting matches of the football World Cup, currently taking place in Russia.

Both Fifa and Uefa condemned BeoutQ broadcasts of World Cup and Champions League matches, with the football authorities issuing statements earlier this week.

The BeIN Media Group - whose content has allegedly been pirated by BeoutQ - has described the pirate channel as a major operation with multi-million dollar ties to the Saudi Arabian government.

“The pirate channel BeoutQ is not a small outfit operating out of someone’s bedroom. This is piracy on a massive commercial scale with multimillion dollar funding underpinning,” said Tom Keaveny, managing director of the media organisation.

“The pirated signal is being transmitted by the Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

A trade ban between Saudi Arabia and Qatar - where BeIN is based - appears to be the reason for BeoutQ being established, however Saudi Arabia has denied any official connection with the pirate broadcaster. The country’s Ministry of Media said in a statement that Uefa’s accusation was “baseless”, adding that it is “contrary to what is occurring in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”