Chinese telecom giant Huawei is ending its oldest major sporting sponsorship deal, blaming a “continued negative business environment”.
The company has sponsored the Canberra Raiders, the rugby league side based in Australia’s capital city, since 2012.
Australia has barred the company from involvement in crucial national communication infrastructure in recent years, while China has ratcheted up pressure for an Australian policy reversal.
Huawei will end its financial backing of the Raiders at the end of the current National Rugby League season in October, a year earlier than planned.
The company said: “The continued negative business environment is having a larger than originally forecasted impact on our planned revenue stream and therefore we will have to terminate our major sponsorship of the Raiders at the end of the 2020 season.”
Huawei’s landmark decision to sponsor the team in 2012 came months after the government banned the company on security grounds from involvement in the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network in 2011.
The sponsorship was seen as an attempt to improve Huawei’s public image in the eyes of politicians and senior bureaucrats in Australia.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the team was “very sad” to be losing its major sponsor.
He said: “The Canberra Raiders and Huawei have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for nearly a decade – they have been by far our longest serving major sponsor.”
Huawei is at the centre of a major dispute between Washington and Beijing over technology and security.
US officials say Huawei is a security risk, which the company denies, and are lobbying European and other allies to avoid its technology as they upgrade to next-generation networks.
China, meanwhile, is trying to encourage Europeans to guarantee access to their markets for Chinese telecom and technology companies.