Chinese rights holders have told the Premier League they will not broadcast English top-flight matches this weekend because of the league’s planned shows of support for Ukraine, the BBC has learnt.
China is a close political ally of Russia, which has invaded Ukraine.
The Premier League has said it “wholeheartedly rejects Russia’s actions” and is set to show solidarity with Ukraine.
“We call for peace and our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted,” it added, when announcing its plans earlier this week.
That will include captains wearing special armbands in Ukrainian colours, while stadium screens will display ‘Football Stands Together’ in front of the country’s blue and yellow flag.
Fans have also been encouraged to join “a moment of reflection and solidarity before kick-off at each game”.
When asked about the Chinese refusal to show matches, the Premier League declined to comment.
The Premier League rights in China are held by iQiyi Sports which took over last year after the collapse of a deal with PPTV.
The row comes with the Premier League reviewing its broadcast contracts in Russia.
This week Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said that, with teams demonstrating their support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, he would “like the Russian people to see the strength of feeling in the Premier League and in English football this weekend”.
He added: “But we are looking at them [the contracts] very closely in terms of suspension or termination, given the current circumstances.”
In 2019 China’s state broadcaster CCTV removed an Arsenal-Manchester City game from its schedule after comments made by then-Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil.
Ozil had posted on social media about the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.