LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Aiming to curb Saudi Arabia's piracy of Qatar-owned sports broadcasts, the International Olympic Committee has urged the U.S. government to keep the country on its watch list for intellectual property protection.

“We are extremely concerned of the impact that online piracy could create during the next 12 months,” the IOC wrote to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in a letter seen Thursday by the Associated Press.

The Jan. 28 letter “respectfully requests” that the U.S “maintains Saudi Arabia’s position on the Priority Watch List” and engages with the kingdom to protect intellectual property.

The IOC sold Middle East rights for the Tokyo Olympics this year and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games to Qatar-based beIN Media Group.

BeIN’s broadcasts of soccer’s World Cup and Champions League have been consistently pirated in Saudi Arabia amid political tensions since a three-year boycott of Qatar by some regional rivals began in 2017. BeIN was banned from operating in Saudi Arabia.

International soccer bodies FIFA, UEFA and England’s Premier League called on the piracy to stop before a World Trade Organization ruling cited Saudi Arabia for failing to shut it down.

The IOC letter said its broadcasting rights, worth billions of dollars in each four-year Olympic period, were key to funding sports bodies and athletes worldwide.

“Robust enforcement efforts by Saudi Arabia against piracy are therefore essential to protect the exclusive rights of beIN in the region, support athletes and safeguard the goals of the Olympic movement,” the IOC wrote.


More AP sports: and