Tag Archives: English Premier League

China-Europe Relations Get Another Kick

Screenshot of Premier League listing of broadcasters in China, September 4, 2020

THE TERMINATION BY England’s elite football league, the Premiership, of its broadcast rights deal in China potentially gives another kick to the already bruised relationship with Europe.

The cause of the cancellation of the three-season £564 million ($700 million) contract is said to be streaming service PPTV withholding a £160 million payment that was due in March. PPTV is owned by retail billionaire Zhang Jindong’s Suning Holdings.

With the suspension of the Premier League because of Covid-19, there were no games to stream. Negotiations between the two sides over a rebate and revised terms for the coming season, which will start next week behind closed doors, have come to nothing so far but reportedly are not entirely dead.

The cancellation could be a negotiating ploy, but Suning’s talk of a ‘strategic adjustment‘ does not suggest the door is open too far. Nonetheless, the cancellation will take a bite out of the £4.2 billion the League has sold the overseas rights to its games last season, this and next.

The dispute appears to be contractural. However, but politics is never far from sport. The NBA, the globally expanding dominant professional basketball league in the United States, got a sharp lesson in that last year when its games were temporarily taken off-air in China following a tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors by an official of one of its teams.

Last December, what looked like an organised social media campaign called for one of the Premier League’s top teams, Arsenal, to fire one of their star players, Mesut Ozil for being critical of Beijing’s treatment of his fellow Muslims.

Relations between the United Kingdom and China have since taken a turn for the worse over Hong Kong and after the U-turn by the UK government excluded Huawei from its 5G network.

The cancellation also came as Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded a five-nation bridge-building visit to Europe ahead of the China-EU summit on September 14. The trip did not go as well. It highlighted that the distances between Europe and China on issues such as Huawei, human rights, Hong Kong and Taiwan remain enormous.

Wang’s warning in Norway that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to any Hong Kong protesters would be taken as interference in China’s internal affairs particularly didn’t go down well, kindling memories of the years-long rift caused by awarding of the 2010 prize to the late activist Liu Xiaobo.

Nor did his threat that president of the Czech Senate, Milos Vystrcil, would ‘pay a heavy price’ for leading a delegation to Taiwan. This earned Wang an sharp rebuke from Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, that was supported by several of his EU colleagues. Such tough talk, even if couched in diplomatic niceties, marks a turn for the Europeans.

None of that, however, undermines Beijing’s need for better relations with Europe as insurance against a US-European coalition against it — or the Premier League’s need to serve one of its biggest markets.

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Filed under China-E.U., China-U.K., Sport

Huang Jianhua Emerges As A Bidder For EPL’s Liverpool

Huang Jianhua and his Hong Kong-based QSL Sports are well known to followers of basketball in China. As Kenny Huang he may soon be well known to football fans everywhere.

In February 2009, the Guangdong-born, American educated deal maker made an arrangement with the Chinese Basketball Association to invest in the National Basketball League in return for an exclusive eight-year contract to promote and manage the NBL. Since then he has brought in 500 million yuan ($74 million) of sponsorship to the league. He also owns the NBL’s Jilin franchise. Now, he is said to be turning his attention to football with a bid for the English Premier League’s Liverpool which has been put up for sale by its American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

It would not be Huang’s first foray into foreign sports team ownership, should his bid be successful (Liverpool says his is one of six bids received). He was part of an investment group that bid for a 15% stake in the U.S. NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and has struck marketing deals with both the NBA’s Houston Rockets (Yao Ming’s team) and MLB’s New York Yankees to promote the American teams in China and to get Chinese advertisers in front of the cameras at NBA games that are shown on TV in China.

We understand Huang turned down an opportunity to buy Liverpool in 2008 for £650 million, because he didn’t think the  heavily indebted club was worth that. The team is now valued at around £350m, though not necessarily by its owners. Although Liverpool has had its troubles on and off the field in recent times, the Reds, along with Manchester United, remain one of the two best known English football brands in China. This all seems like a marketing driven deal, but if it comes off it would finally give some substance to Huang’s reputation as a sports business tycoon rather than just a sports deal maker.

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English Soccer Seeks To Get Back On Free-To-Air Chinese TV

English football is widely watched on TV (and often heavily gambled on) everywhere in Asia, except China. The reason for that is that the games have been on WinTV since 2007 when the subscription service outbid free to air broadcasters for China rights to the games. The size of the viewing audience has reportedly fallen from 30 million to about 20,000 following the switch.

Now Bloomberg reports that the English Premier League, worried that its big clubs are missing out on a potentially lucrative merchandising market and the game is at risk in its global marketing battle with basketball, is trying to get the matches back on free TV.

It is reportedly brokering a consortium of advertisers to buy the China rights when they next come up in 2010. The consortium would then give the games to CCTV for broadcast. No names of whom the advertisers might be, but they are  “world-wide brands in the sporting goods, soft drinks and alcoholic beverage industries”, Phil Lines, the Premier League’s head of international broadcasting and media operations, told Bloomberg.

Novel approach to sports media rights and a further sign of the potential importance of the domestic Chinese market to global businesses.

Update: The Offside, a football blog, has a more skeptical take on the EPL’s proposal.

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