President of French court censures Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and orders it to honour beIN exclusive contract
The President of the Nanterre Commercial Court labels ASO’s attempted termination as
“seriously questionable” as Saudi political interference in sports rights takes new form
In a legal ruling that will be noted across the sports industry,
the President of the Nanterre Commercial Court in France has ordered Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) –
organizers of the Dakar Rally, Tour de France, the Paris Marathon amongst other events – to specifically
perform its five year media rights exclusive agreement with beIN MENA LLC (beIN MEDIA GROUP’s MENA
operation). This followed ASO’s remarkable, unlawful attempt to unilaterally break beIN’s exclusive contract
and give the media rights to Saudi Arabia.
Last year, beIN and ASO entered into a multi-million euro five year deal granting beIN exclusive media rights
in the Middle East & North Africa to all ASO’s major events, including the Dakar Rally, the Tour de France,
Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Le Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-
Tours and the Paris Marathon from 2018 to 2023.
Earlier this year, ASO suddenly moved the venue of the Dakar Rally from South America to
Saudi Arabia from 2020 onwards. ASO then attempted to exit beIN’s agreement to license the media rights
to a Saudi broadcaster and, to that end, unilaterally terminated beIN’s five year exclusive agreement.
Remarkably, ASO also refused to provide beIN with the satellite feeds to its events, for which beIN was the
official and exclusive broadcast partner.
beIN immediately took ASO to court. The President of the Nanterre Commercial Court, after ruling that ASO’s
termination was seriously questionable, issued an interim order in favor of beIN ordering ASO to “continue
the performance of the contract in all its stipulations”. Underlining the importance of the economic stakes of
the unlawful termination of the contract, the President of the court also ordered a penalty of €10,000 for every
day that ASO refused to give beIN the necessary satellite feeds, technical and operational information to
ensure the legitimate broadcaster can transmit all the events.
Perhaps not uncoincidentally, ASO was represented by De Gaulle Fleurance & Associés, the law firm that
represented Arabsat in the high profile French court case this June where the President of the Tribunal de
Grande Instance de Paris held that Arabsat – the Saudi-headquartered satellite provider – distributes beoutQ
on its satellites. Despite this ruling, and notwithstanding a 158-page technical report commissioned by FIFA
and all the major bodies in world football establishing Arabsat’s complicity in beoutQ1, De Gaulle Fleurance
& Associés said “This is a great victory for Arabsat who was wrongly accused. The President of the Paris
civil court has clearly ruled that Arabsat is not involved in the beoutQ pirate TV channels.”2 A subsequent
report by Cartesian even showed that Arabsat had gone as far as distorting its technical evidence in that
Caroline Guenneteau, Head of Legal of beIN SPORTS France said: “We are pleased that the rule of law
has prevailed and that commercial contracts cannot be torn up by undue interference. This series of events
gives an indication of the Saudi’s new strategy while its beoutQ transmissions remain down over satellite;
namely, to illegally force its way into sports broadcasting through undue political and commercial influence.
However, this French ruling sends a clear message that the pressuring of commercial partners to illegally
break contracts will not be tolerated. beIN will relentlessly defend its commercial interests using the full force
of the law.”
Separate attachment – full ruling of the President of Nanterre Commercial Court, 11 October 2019