The Premier League has terminated its TV rights deal with China, its biggest overseas contract, leaving a huge hole in clubs’ finances.
The deal with Chinese broadcaster PPTV was worth around £490m and had lasted only one of its three years. The conflict is said to have been around a fee of £160m that the Premier League was owed in March but did not receive.
“The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for Premier League coverage in China with its licensee in that territory,” a spokesman said on Thursday. “The Premier League will not be commenting further on the matter at this stage.”
It is not known if the conflict is based purely on money or involves the escalating political tensions between China and the UK government.
Boris Johnson announced in July that Huawei, the Chinese telecoms firm, was banned from implementing the rollout of the country’s 5g network. The prime minster has also publicly opposed security laws initiated in Hong Kong.
China is one of the biggest overseas markets and many clubs are going to great lengths to expand their brands in the country.
Three clubs are currently under Chinese ownership. Southampton are 80 per cent owned by Gao Jisheng’s Lander Sports Development, Wolverhampton Wanderers are owned by Chinese investment conglomerate Fosun International and newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion are 87.8 per cent owned by Guochuan Lai, a Chinese billionaire.
Manchester City’s owners, the City Football Group, also received £265m for a 13 per cent from Chinese investors, China Media Capital, in 2015. At the time, City chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak said it would “leverage the incredible potential that exists in China”, adding that “the exponential growth pathway for the game [in the country] is both unique and hugely exciting”.
In December, Arsenal distanced themselves from criticism of China’s persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang by Mesut Ozil, their highest paid player.
In July 2019, the Premier League played their preseason Asia Trophy in China, in which Newcastle United, Wolves, West Ham and Manchester City competed.