Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

BALDARI | The Premier League’s Politics Need to Be More Consistent

The English Premier League’s (PL) statements about the war in Ukraine have reminded its players and fans that the League’s primary concern has always been its bottom line. 

Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the League initially seemed unified in its solidarity with Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. 

On March 8, the League announced a series of symbolic steps: suspending its contract with Russian broadcasters, displaying the Ukrainian flag during game broadcasts, implementing a minute’s applause before kickoff and giving each team captain an armband embossed with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. The front office also pledged £1 million to humanitarian groups aiding Ukrainians affected by the conflict.

Videos of fans in stadiums across England standing to applaud as the jumbotron showed the words “Football Stands Together” seemed to assert the League’s unconditional support for the Ukrainian people.

However, when it was pressured to stand by its views, those words rang hollow. 

China – which has actively supported Russia as it faces economic sanctions from Europe – protested the League’s decisions by refusing to air PL matches on Chinese television. 

So, the PL wavered. Days later, the League announced it would abandon its coordinated messaging campaign on Ukraine, leaving each club to support Ukraine on its own. 

Evidently, the League saw its values as secondary to its £120 million deal with Chinese TV providers.

On March 10, the British government further exposed the League’s hypocrisy by imposing sanctions on Chelsea F.C. owner Roman Abramovich, one of seven UK-based Russian oligarchs sanctioned for their close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

Abramovich’s fealty to Putin’s despicable regime was never a secret, yet the PL has turned a blind eye to his loyalties ever since he bought the club in 2003. If the League truly cared about condemning Russia, it would have acted much sooner to punish, or at least investigate, one of their own owners, who, according to the British Foreign Secretary, had “the blood of the Ukrainian people” on his hands.

Two days after the government’s announcement, the PL voted to oust Abramovich as director of the club, paving the way for the Russian to sell Chelsea. In the process, the League looked like a reactive bureaucracy, forced to finally condemn one of its billionaire owners after years of inaction. 

Even after that incident, though, the League reeks of complacency. On Oct. 7, 2021, the Premier League allowed Saudi Arabia’s government-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) to purchase Newcastle United despite criticism from human rights groups.

More recently, just as the League distanced itself from Abramovich, it had no qualms cozying up to another controversial billionaire. One of the frontrunners to purchase Chelsea from Abramovich is Mohamed Alkhereiji, a Saudi media tycoon with links to Riyadh.

The League’s slowness to act on Abramovich and failures to act on the PIF or Alkhereiji reveal a familiar pattern – its unwillingness to dissociate from owners who support its bottom line.

The PL only acted against Abramovich once a war between Russia and Ukraine forced them to. Hopefully it does not take military escalation for the PL to disavow its other owners with ties to corrupt governments.

To definitively stand up for human rights and international law, decision makers in the League front office must block the Saudi takeover of Newcastle and shut down Alkhereiji’s bid for Chelsea. 

Every individual display of support for Ukraine by players, coaches or fans will be undermined by the fact that the League itself does not stand behind them. Until the Premier League prioritizes principles over revenue, the most-watched soccer league in the world’s statements on Ukraine will be nothing but empty words. Christian Baldari is a sophomore in the College. Beware the Hype appears online and in print every other week.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *