Sport

Premier League’s £160m China TV fight as rights holders withhold cost due in March

Premier League in £160m China TV battle after broadcast holders of their most lucrative overseas deal withheld payment due in March, posing potentially seismic ramifications for club finances

  • Premier League is locked in a legal dispute with its Chinese broadcast partners 
  • Suning Holdings have withheld a payment of £160m due in March this year 
  • The top flight have retaliated by rejecting their offer of a three-year extension
  • The stand-off could have big ramifications for all 20 Premier League clubs 

The Premier League are locked in a legal dispute with their Chinese broadcast partners that could cost clubs hundreds of millions of pounds in lost television income.

Sportsmail can reveal that rights holders Suning Holdings have withheld a payment of £160million that was due in March, with the Premier League retaliating by rejecting their offer for a three-year extension to the contract to cover the 2022-25 seasons.

The stand-off 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 their digital channel, PPTV.

The Premier League are locked in a £160m standoff with their Chinese broadcast partners

The Premier League are locked in a £160m standoff with their Chinese broadcast partners

That deal represented a 12-fold increase on the previous Chinese TV contract with Super Sports Media and the Premier League were budgeting for another significant rise for the next three years, which it was anticipated would help offset the flattening value of domestic TV rights.

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The Premier League claim that Suning are in breach of contract following their failure to pay, which is believed to primarily have resulted from the sporting shutdown due to coronavirus but may also have a political dimension.

The clubs discussed the issue at last week’s shareholders’ meeting and are considering a range of options, including demanding an immediate payment, negotiating a revised payment schedule or terminating the deal.

Suning Holdings have withheld a payment due in March, meaning a huge chunk needs paying

Suning Holdings have withheld a payment due in March, meaning a huge chunk needs paying

Suning have developed into huge players in the global TV market in recent years having also bought the rights to the Champions League, FA Cup, La Liga and Bundesliga matches in China, as well as a controlling interest in Inter Milan four years ago.

The potential loss of income has been compounded by the Chinese government’s decision to cancel international sports events for the rest of the year, with the exception of Olympic trials, so the lucrative summer tours regularly undertaken by Premier League clubs have been scrapped this year.

There is also a political dimension to the dispute which is uncomfortable for the Premier League, who are in danger of being caught in the crossfire of escalating tensions between the British and Chinese governments.

The standoff could have seismic ramifications for all 20 clubs if the payment is not made

The standoff could have seismic ramifications for all 20 clubs if the payment is not made

In a stark message last month, the Chinese ambassador in London accused Britain of interfering in the country’s internal affairs and warned of consequences following Boris Johnson’s pledge to offer UK residency to up to 3 million Hong Kong residents.

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The Prime Minister’s decision to block Chinese technology giant Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s new 5G network has also soured relations.

Over the past months, sports broadcasts by Chinese rights holders appear to have been 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 to a less viewed digital channel. 

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