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English Premier League TV rights deal in Russia ‘under review’

The Premier League is looking at the suspension or termination of its Russian television deal following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, chief executive Richard Masters said on Thursday.

The Russian rights for the current season are owned by a company called Rambler, and broadcast on streaming platform Okko.

Match TV, owned by Russian state energy giant Gazprom, is then set to start a six-year deal from the 2022/23 season.

Commercial deals with Russia in all sectors are under scrutiny and Masters told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit in London: “With regards to our broadcast contracts in Russia, clearly they’re under review.”

“We’re looking at (the contracts) very closely in terms of suspension, termination,” he added. “It’s happening right now. It’s a fast-moving situation.”

Earlier this week, Russia was suspended from international football competitions and European governing body UEFA ended its partnership with Gazprom.

Masters was asked whether the fact that Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich—who has announced he is selling the club — was potentially facing sanctions from the British government made a mockery of the league’s owners’ and directors’ test designed to assess the suitability of those in control of top-flight English teams.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “The test has been under a lot of scrutiny for the last 12 months and we’re looking at it again.

“As part of our process in responding to (a) fan-led review we’re looking at whether more tests need to be added, whether we need to be more transparent about those decisions and whether independent scrutiny really needs to be put on top of it.”

Amnesty raised concerns over the purchase in October of Newcastle by a Saudi-led consortium, saying it was an attempt to “sportswash” the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record.

The rights group urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address rights issues. 

Asked on Thursday whether there could be a human rights element in the future, Masters said: “We have had some helpful conversations with Amnesty International about those sort of things.

“I’m not going to say how it should change yet, because really it should be one test for football.”

Premier League clubs are set to show their support for the people of Ukraine at this weekend’s matches.

“I’d like the Russian people to see the strength of feeling in the Premier League and in English football this weekend,” Masters said.

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