Chinese state TV has taken English Premier League matches off the air, bringing the lucrative world of professional soccer into the increasingly fraught relations between Beijing and London.
China Central Television (CCTV), which has the rights to broadcast Premier League matches, is not showing the remainder of the season, a person familiar with the decision said.
The match between Liverpool and Chelsea was not aired as planned yesterday and the final round of this season’s matches due to be played on Sunday no longer appear on CCTV’s program schedule.
The move comes amid a deterioration of ties, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government banning Huawei Technologies Co from the UK’s 5G network and opposing national security legislation imposed in Hong Kong.
The UK and the US — which has also been taking a more confrontational stance with China — have discussed creating a coalition to counter Beijing.
It is not the first time sports has been brought into geopolitics.
CCTV last year dropped its NBA coverage after a team official made comments supporting protesters in Hong Kong.
The move did not appear to extend to streaming platforms, with the match in Liverpool aired on Chinese app PPTV.
CCTV’s action “is symbolic of what else could come following decisions around Hong Kong and Huawei,” said Mark Tanner, founder of Shanghai-based research and marketing firm China Skinny.
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