Australian rugby league team proud of Huawei sponsorship

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian rugby league team wants to continue Huawei’s longest-ever sports sponsorship despite the Chinese communication giant’s ban from Australia’s 5G networks and legal wrangle with the United States.

Huawei has been the major sponsor of the Canberra Raiders, the national capital’s only team in the National Rugby League, since 2012, and will consider this year extending its first sponsorship contract with a sports team anywhere in the world.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said relations between the sponsor and the team, which won the last of its three championships in 1994, had not been affected by recent U.S. criminal charges that allege Huawei stole trade secrets, misled banks about its business, and violated U.S. sanctions.

“We are proud to carry their logo on the front of our jersey and our relationship has been nothing but positive from the first season they were with us until now,” Furner said in an email.

“We would love to keep Huawei on board as sponsor. They’re our longest serving major sponsor and have been a fantastic partner for us. We will sit down with them once the season starts and open discussions about their deal beyond 2019.”

Huawei’s three-year sponsorship deal, which includes displaying the Huawei logo prominently on the Raiders’ uniform, expires when the 2019 season ends in September.

Huawei first sponsored what is perhaps Canberra’s highest-profile sports team months after the federal government banned the company, on security grounds, from involvement in the rollout of Australia’s National Broadband Network in 2011.

The government struck Huawei another commercial blow in August by excluding the company from playing any part in 5G networks that are being rolled out across Australia this year.

Huawei spokesman Jeremy Mitchell said the 5G ban would figure in the company’s discussions on whether extending the Raiders’ sponsorship “aligns with our business going forward.”

“We have a large business portfolio across consumer, across enterprise, and we still are the largest provider of 4G networks in Australia, and there are still many years left of 4G investment in Australia,” Mitchell said.

“So while it (the 5G ban) will be part of the equation, it certainly doesn’t rule out us continuing with the Raiders.”

Neither Huawei nor the Raiders will reveal the value of the sponsorship deal.