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Broadcasters Say They Must Air Gazprom Ads Amid Ukraine Tension

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(Bloomberg) -- Sports broadcasters are continuing to show advertisements from Russian energy producer Gazprom PJSC throughout Wednesday’s coverage of European Champions League football matches, despite concerns from some on social media that the spots are inappropriate given the tense situation in the Ukraine.

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BT Sport and DAZN said Wednesday afternoon that they have no choice but to allow the promotions, which include short announcements called bumpers.

“As part of our UEFA contract we are obliged to show the UEFA Champions League bumpers, which are provided to us by UEFA to include in our broadcast,” BT Sport said in a statement.

Earlier in the day BT Sport had said it was “concerned” by customer reactions after Tuesday evening’s coverage.

“Commercials from various UEFA sponsors are shown as part of our UEFA Champions League broadcasts,” a spokeswoman for the sports streaming service DAZN said. “DAZN has no control over these.”

A spokesperson for Gazprom declined to comment.

The energy giant is a major UEFA sponsor with a contract worth a reported 40 million euros ($45.4 million) per season. Following Moscow’s recognition of two breakaway regions within Ukraine, some broadcasters sought guidance on whether to show Gazprom advertising in the face of growing customer concerns, according to people familiar with the situation.

“Regarding Gazprom, UEFA will continue to closely monitor the situation,” a UEFA spokesperson said. “We have no further comments to make on the topic at this stage.”

Wednesday’s matches include Atletico Madrid versus Manchester United.

BT Sport shows the Champions League competition exclusively in the U.K. DAZN broadcasts in Germany and Canada, while various other broadcasters, including CBS in America, show the prestigious competition across the world.

Two games shown Tuesday in the U.K. were accompanied by prominent ads on BT Sport for Gazprom, while inside Chelsea F.C.’s Stamford Bridge, which is owned by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, there were prominent LED displays managed by UEFA advertising Gazprom.

Abramovich may be at risk for U.K. sanctions if tensions with Moscow over Ukraine continue to escalate, with the British foreign secretary refusing to rule out such a move.

A spokesperson for Chelsea F.C. declined to comment.

(Updated with BT Sport, DAZN comments in third paragraph.)

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