China pulls Premier League TV coverage over shows of solidarity with Ukraine

Show caption The big screen at Crystal Palace shows a message in support of Ukraine last Saturday. Similar displays are expected across the Premier League this weekend. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters Premier League China pulls Premier League TV coverage over shows of solidarity with Ukraine League plans gestures of support this weekend

IQIYI Sports informs league it will not broadcast games Paul MacInnes @PaulMac Fri 4 Mar 2022 14.41 GMT Share on Facebook

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Premier League matches will be blocked by Chinese broadcasters this weekend because of planned displays of solidarity with Ukraine.

Under the banner “Football Stands Together”, club captains will wear armbands in the colours of Ukraine this weekend and a “moment of reflection and solidarity” will take place before kick-off. The gestures of solidarity are to feature in international broadcast feeds of all Premier League fixtures, and the league’s Chinese broadcast partner, IQIYI Sports, has informed the league that matches will not be broadcast in the country as a result.

This is not the first occasion that Chinese broadcasters have blocked the Premier League. In 2019 a match involving Arsenal was pulled from the schedules after the club’s then captain, Mesut Özil, criticised China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

In 2020 Bloomberg also reported that the state terrestrial broadcaster, CCTV, had demoted English top-flight matches to less popular channels after the UK government’s decision to ban the Chinese company Huawei from its 5G network. CCTV is understood not to have renewed a terrestrial deal with the Premier League in the current period.

The league engaged in a protracted battle with PPTV, its former broadcast partner in the country, after the company defaulted on its contract during the pandemic. The high court ruled that PPTV should pay the Premier League £156m in compensation, but the Guardian understands that money has yet to be paid.

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IQIYI agreed a three-year deal for exclusive Premier League rights. Although the value of the deal was not disclosed it was believed to be significantly lower than that agreed with PPTV.

On Thursday the league’s chief executive, Richard Masters, confirmed that it was re-evaluating its broadcast contracts in Russia. “It’s clearly under review,” he said. “I would like the Russian people to see the strength of feeling. We will look at it very closely re: suspension and termination. We are looking at it right now.”