By Andrew Warshaw
September 4 – In a move that took most of the footballing world by surprise, the English Premier League has pulled the plug on its overseas television deal with Chinese broadcaster PPTV – with immediate effect and after just one season.
PPTV, part of retail group Suning, paid an estimated £530 million for three years of rights from the 2019-20 season but has now been scrapped.
“The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for Premier League coverage in China with its licensee in that territory. The Premier League will not be commenting further on the matter at this stage,” the league said in a statement.
The Daily Mail newspaper reported last month that PPTV had withheld £160 million of rights fees that were due in February, the time when the Premier League was suspended for three months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. PPTV disputed the broadcast contract saying that it was no longer worth the value that was originally negotiated.
Under the deal signed in July last year, Chinese fans were provided with a live broadcasting service, including the use of special effects to create a match atmosphere.
In the wake of the contract’s termination, there has been no announcement about any new negotiations with a broadcast replacement.
The Premier League has said that the cancellation is purely deal and non-payment related, though it has been linked to political tensions with China.
Earlier this year, the British government took the highly controversial decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from any involvement in the UK’s future 5G network.
Last December, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV pulled a game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its programming after Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil expressed support for mainly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Elsewhere Southampton’s owner Jiasheng Gao has put the club up for sale while the club’s Chinese sponsor LD Sports walked away from their three-year, UK£22.5 million contract two years early and just two weeks before the start of the new season.
Chinese investor John Jiang, founder and CEO of Desports that holds stakes in LaLiga’s Granada, where he has been club chairman, and Serie A’s Parma, is also understood to be backing away from the European market. Reports are that he has been putting off creditors and unable to pay down debt. He is understood to have left Europe. The financial implications from both clubs could be serious.
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