The Barclays Premier League and Qatar-owned broadcaster beIN Sports have announced the reinstatement of live broadcasts for Saturday fixtures at 18:00 PM (Mecca Time) in the Middle East & North Africa effective November 8th.
Formerly Al Jazeera Sports, beIN owns the EPL television rights for 23 countries from Iran to Morocco and charges just shy of Dh500 to customers wishing to get their full sports package.
However fans have been left disgruntled since November 2013 as the Live broadcasting of Saturday games was restricted due to piracy concerns in UK.
Commenting on the announcement, Mr. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Chairman-CEO, said: “We are delighted to resume LIVE broadcasts of all Saturday 18:00 PM (Mecca Time) games on beIN SPORTS channels.
“The Premier League is a primary property and we are very happy to bring back this weekend excitement to our millions of subscribers in the region.”
Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, added: “Strong Anti-piracy measures used by beIN SPORTS have proved to be successful and, as a result, we are very happy to revert back our original licensing position from last season.
“We now look forward to all Barclays Premier League fans across the region enjoying more extensive access to the competition in the coming weeks and months.”
The UAE's grip on the Gulf Cup remains firm, Ali Mabkhout's brace sending the holders through to the semi-finals as Group B runners-up courtesy of a 2-0 victory against Iraq.
The Al Jazira striker has been a constant source of inspiration for the UAE, in a campaign that really only came to life during he second half at a sparsely-filled King Fahd International Stadium. Mabkhout is the tournament's top scorer on four goals, three of these taken from the top draw.
Thursday night was not without nerves for the Whites during a repeat of the 2013 final. An awful opening 45 minutes saw them poised for a second group-stage exit as holders within five years, Oman's surge to an astonishing 5-0 triumph against Kuwait the source of panic.
The Red Warriors dumped the one-time leaders into third place courtesy of a 15-minute hat-trick from Salim Said either side of half-time.
The weight of victory from Paul Le Guen's men saw the UAE destined to play hosts Saudi Arabia in the second of Sunday's semi-finals, Oman facing Group A runners-up Qatar.
Star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman has long been billed as the sole saviour of UAE football. The Al Ain man sparkled again last night, but he is now not without peer.
Precious little happened during an awful first half, the only incident of note seeing Majed Hassan clatter into Iraq goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachim when played through by Ahmed Khalil's first-time pass.
Coach Mahdi Ali was a source of constant movement on the touchline, urging his troops out of their slumber. He emerged early from the dressing room at the interval to jee up substitutes Habib Fardan and Mohamed Abdulrahman.
The message was clear that something had to change. That duly arrived from absolutely nowhere on 49 minutes.
A drop of the shoulder earned Mabkhout an inch of space he made the maximum out of, a rocket from 30 yards flying high into the top corner. The players erupted in celebration, this truly meant something.
A helping hand put the game beyond the Lions of Mesopotamia. Right-back Ali Faez Atiyah's under-cooked back-pass was intercepted by Khalil, who played in Mabkhout to sweep home a second.
The UAE dominated play against heartbroken opponents, Omar Abdulrahman heading wide inches from goal and sending another effort into the side-netting at the death.
Those misses didn't matter. The dream lives on for Ali's men.
The UAE are firm in their belief that they need to go all out for the win in their final Group B game against Iraq to continue their Gulf Cup defence, according to coach Mahdi Ali.
UAE put on a much-improved performance on Monday against Kuwait but two goals in two minutes saw them fall to a second-successive draw, leaving progression in the balance.
Tonight’s decisive match is a repeat of the 2013 decider in which the UAE soared to a 2-1 extra-time triumph.
Although another stalemate could see them sneak through if results go their way elsewhere, a similar triumph to the one registered in the previous edition’s finale is the only guarantor of a semi-final spot.
They face opponents in an even-more desperate position after claiming only one point thus far.
“Our game with Iraq is the decisive match to qualify for the second round,” coach Ali said. “Achieving a positive result is required to do this.
“We know the Iraq team well. They have been quite unlucky in both of their games, and in general they have quality players and are a strong team physically.
“Even if we had won the previous game, the opinion of people can vary. We had the chances [against Kuwait] to make it 3 or 4-0; it is not my opinion [that] there was a decline in performance.”
The expected starting line-ups for both teams will have altered little from the last tournament in Bahrain, with bosses Ali and Hakeem Shaker sticking steadfastly with their developing sides.
With so many familiar faces in opposition, including prodigal Al Dhafra loanee Humam Tariq, Ali was asked if he was worried revenge would play a key element in the clash at King Fahd International Stadium.
“I think there are not so many changes to the Iraq team,” he said. “Most of the players who played in the final they are playing still. “I do not like to speak about revenge and all these things. For us, it is just a game.”
There was a similar message from the Lions of Mesopotamia camp, albeit delivered by assistant coach Safaa Adnan Dawood after Shaker declined to attend yet another media event in the Saudi capital.
“This tournament is to promote peace and love across Gulf nations, [so there’s no element of revenge],” he said. “Hopefully, we will represent our country with a good level to satisfy the fans.”
Ali delivered mixed news in regards to injuries for the UAE, revealing centre midfielder Amer Abdulrahman is struggling to feature while praising star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman for playing “better and better” following a lengthy spell out with injury.
For Iraq, Ali Adnan and Salam Shakir are suspended while midfielder Yaser Kasim must return to Swindon Town following his goal-scoring exploits against Oman.
The Whites are yet to register a convincing display for 90 minutes, sinking to a goalless draw against Oman before flattering to deceive against Kuwait.
Ali insisted that the pressure of being champions was not a cause of their fitful form.
He said: “Pressure is a part of the game, we have played many competitions with this.
“I do not think the pressure is affecting us in this competition. We know how to deal with this.”