BeIN Sports has cut nearly a fifth of its staff after facing a slump in profits which it blames on online piracy.

The Qatar-based broadcaster accuses rivals BeoutQ of illegally streaming BeIN content in Saudi Arabia, which has blocked BeIN since 2017.

BeIN has sought legal action against BeoutQ and repeatedly accused the Saudi government of backing the pirate channel.

A statement from the company said: “In light of these challenges we have taken some difficult decisions to right-size our MENA business, but these decisions will secure our business for the future.”

Around 300 employees are said to have been laid off by BeIN, which decided against bidding for a new contract to broadcast Formula 1 races earlier this year.

In March the Asian Football Confederation revoked BeIN’s contract to broadcast AFC matches in Saudi Arabia.

It is still unclear who is behind the pirate channel, which emerged shortly after the Saudi-backed blockade of Qatar began in June 2017. The Saudi government has consistently denied any involvement.

BeIN has accused the Saudi-based satellite operator Arabsat of carrying the pirate broadcasts, and international sporting organisations such as FIFA have called on Arabsat to block illegal broadcasts.

However, a ruling in a French court last week found that while pirated content was available on Arabsat frequencies, there was no “clear and illegal disruption” from the company.