Broadcast rights of major sports events such as the World Cup used to be a hot topic for debate in the Arab World. Not anymore as most people here have grown accustomed to the realities of premium TV in the region. But something in this article from the New York Times caught my attention: “In many smaller European countries, public broadcasters still have a firm grip on the World Cup, under a collective agreement between FIFA, the governing body for the tournament, and the European Broadcasting Union, a group representing public broadcasters. A similar deal was signed between FIFA and the African Union of Broadcasters, providing viewers with free access to all the World Cup matches across much of sub-Saharan Africa.” Why this is not the case here? In the Middle East there is such a union. It’s called ASBU. Unfortunately for the people in this region, ASBU is too weak and has been subdued by private TV networks owned by individuals with close ties to Arab government. Go figure.
Speaking for the World Cup, Saudi Arabia did not make it to this year’s tournament for the first time since 1994. This failure to qualify and other local sports issues have been recently discussed in the Shoura Council. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW) has come under strong criticism from Shoura members who questioned the performance of GPWY and how they spend their budget. I highly doubt this will change anything in that aging body, but I’m glad to see them getting kicked, even if it was merely symbolic.