- Title: China's response to Mesut Ozil is 'warning shot' to European leagues
- Date: 17th December 2019
- Summary: LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (DECEMBER 17, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPORTS FINANCE EXPERT, LIVERPOOL UNIVERISTY, KIERAN MAGUIRE, SAYING: "I think in the eyes of Arsenal and the Premier League I think they'd want this one quickly buried. I think they're presently trying to negotiate new overseas contracts and they want to see that they are taking notice of the people who are paying substantial money for the broadcasting rights."
- Embargoed: 31st December 2019 12:54
- Location: VARIOUS
- City: VARIOUS
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Soccer,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA004BAD7DC7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: China's decision to pull Arsenal's game against Manchester City from its schedules on Sunday (December 15) was a "warning shot" to European leagues according to one sports finance expert.
Chinese State Television made the decision after Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil's messages on social media criticized the country's policy toward its Muslim Uighur minority.
Despite Arsenal distancing itself from Ozil's comments the club along with the Premier League and Euopean Leagues will be concerned by the China's response as they all scramble for a slice of the expanding Chinese market.
The issue has echoes of the dispute earlier this year when the Chinese Basketball Association and several companies cut ties with the NBA's Houston Rockets and games were cut from TV schedules after the team's general manager had expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
That dispute is still affecting the NBA, with reduced screening of games. The University of Liverpool's Kieran Maguire, a sports finance expert, said the situation was a warning to all clubs and leagues.
China is now the English Premier League's most lucrative overseas market, with the country paying 564 million pounds for a three-year TV rights deal, while Italy, Spain and Germany have also pocketed big deals.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are fully Chinese-owned, while the owners of English champions Manchester City sold around 13 percent of the club to a Chinese investment company.
Most clubs have some level of Chinese sponsorship, while the Premier League Asia Trophy pre-season tournament was held in Shanghai and Nanjing this year.
The annual Red Card report by Shanghai-based consultancy Mailman, which tracks social media and digital engagement, listed Arsenal as the seventh most followed European club on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform in 2018.
Former Germany international Ozil was once rated as the fifth most influential player in the world. A Muslim, born in Germany from parents of Turkish origin, Ozil's best man at his wedding earlier this year was Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Red Card report also said Arsenal are among the front-runners when it comes to digital commercialisation and brand awareness in China.
The 31-year-old Ozil, Arsenal's highest-paid player, posted messages on Twitter and Instagram where he called minority Uighur Muslims "warriors who resist persecution".
The London club said afterwards on Weibo that "the content he expressed is entirely Ozil's personal opinion," and stated that the club had a principle of not being involved in politics.
The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between one and two million mostly ethnic Uighur Muslims have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls an anti-terrorism campaign.
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.
The Premier League declined to comment. Other major European leagues and several top clubs contacted on Monday by Reuters asking if they had concerns over political interference or a clampdown on free speech for players in China also declined to comment.
(Production: Tim Hart)
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