China Pulls Premier League Coverage Over Shows of Ukraine Solidarity

By Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn
Reporter
Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers U.S. and China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We're Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”
March 4, 2022 Updated: March 4, 2022

The Chinese broadcaster of the English Premier League will not air any of its games over the weekend due to the league’s planned displays of support for Ukraine.

Upcoming Premier League games through Monday will feature shows of support for Ukrainian sovereignty and for the people of Ukraine, including armbands, boards, and screens displaying “Football Stands Together” in front of the country’s yellow and blue flag. There will also be a “moment of reflection and solidarity” taking place each game before kick-off.

As a result, the league’s Chinese broadcast partner, IQIYI sports, has informed the Premier League that it will not air any matches from March 5 to March 7, according to media reports. Chinese video-streaming giant IQIYI holds exclusive rights to broadcast the league in the country.

The Chinese regime has a close partnership with Russia. While it has not openly backed Moscow, Beijing has refused to denounce the war nor label Russia’s actions an “invasion,” leading many to view the regime as tacitly supporting Russian President Vladamir Putin. This week, Beijing abstained from a UN General Assembly vote condemning Russia’s invasion.

In an official statement on March 2, the Premier League denounced Putin’s actions.

“The Premier League and our clubs wholeheartedly reject Russia’s actions and will be showing support for the people of Ukraine at all matches this weekend. We call for peace and our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted,” the statement reads.

This is not the first time China has canceled sports coverage when leagues or players voice political stances not endorsed by the communist regime.

In 2019, Chinese broadcasters of the NBA temporarily stopped airing games after then-Houston Rockets general manager posted a tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Also that year, a Premier League match involving Arsenal was pulled from Chinese broadcast schedules after then-captain Mesut Özil criticized the communist regime for its persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The Premier League did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael Washburn
Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers U.S. and China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We're Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”