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China to block broadcast of Premier League clubs’ support for Ukraine


China is suspending its coverage of the Premier League this weekend to avoid broadcasting the clubs’ show of solidarity with Ukraine.

The Premier League is planning to show its support for the Ukrainian people over Russia’s devastating invasion of the country, with club captains due to wear armbands in the national colours of yellow and blue across all 10 games. There will also be a moment of silence before kick-off at each ground, while messages of support will appear on advertising boards and on screens in stadiums. The official Premier League logo has also been altered to reflect the Ukrainian flag.

“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,” a statement read. “We call for peace and our thoughts are with all those who have been impacted. A show of solidarity for Ukraine will be visible at all Premier League matches from Saturday 5 to Monday 7 March.”

Chinese broadcaster iQIYI owns China’s exclusive rights to the Premier League, with a contract worth a reported £120m up until the end of the 2024-25 season. Despite the move to block coverage this weekend, The Independent understands the league’s long-term deal with iQIYI is not thought to be at risk over the issue.

China is in an awkward position over the war and its Russian allyship is being severely tested. President Xi is trying to protect China’s fragile relationships both with the west and with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, who has shifted a significant portion of his country’s economy east in recent years. Trade between the two nations hit a new high of £110bn last year, accounting for nearly 20 per cent of all Russian trade.

While the west has implemented strong sanctions on Russia to “hobble”, in prime minster Boris Johnson’s words, the Russian economy financing the war, China has said it will “continue to have normal trade cooperation” with Russia. China has not overtly condemned Putin’s invasion but the country’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, has said he “deplores the outbreak of conflict between Ukraine and Russia”.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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