The Premier League has pulled the plug on its huge £564million deal with Chinese broadcasters.
The move has ended the right to show top-flight English football in the country with immediate effect, and looks set to have huge lasting financial repercussions on the football landscape of the UK.
Disagreements arose after a £160m payment was withheld due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as reportedly exclusively here by Sportsmail, and now the Premier League has moved swiftly to take decisive action.
Rights holders Suning Holdings – the Chinese conglomerate that owns streaming service PPTV as well as Italian club Inter Milan – withheld the payment of £160m that was due in March.
In initial retaliation the Premier League then rejected their offer for a three-year extension to the contract to cover the 2022-25 seasons.
This saga now has potentially seismic ramifications for club finances as the Chinese TV deal is the most lucrative in the world outside the UK, with Suning agreeing to pay £564m for the current 2019-22 cycle for the right to broadcast Premier League games on PPTV.
A Premier League statement on Thursday read: ‘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.’
Earlier in the week Andrew Collins, the chief executive of Shanghai-based digital sports agency Mailman Group, wrote on social media that PPTV had ‘terminated’ the agreement it struck with English football’s top flight in November 2016. This was quickly deleted.
These latest developments follow on from a string of political controversies, during which the relationship between England and China has become soured.
In July Chinese state broadcasters CCTV chose not to air coverage of Premier League games following growing tensions between China and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s UK government, which came as a result of the ban on telecom company Huawei from the new development of 5G in Britain.
This followed on from the prime minister’s opposition to the new security laws imposed in Hong Kong, causing further tension.
Over the past several months, sports broadcasts by Chinese rights holders appear to have been increasingly dragged into such political disputes.
State broadcaster CCTV Sports caused a stir last month by switching their coverage of Liverpool’s 5-3 win over Chelsea, after which they lifted the Premier League trophy, to a less viewed digital channel.