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Huawei blames 5G mobile ban in Australia for its decision to axe Canberra Raiders sponsorship

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has blamed tensions with the Australian government for its decision to pull out as the principal sponsor of the NRL’s Canberra Raiders.

The Shenzhen-based company said the ‘continued negative business environment’ was behind the end of a nine-year arrangement that saw its red logo adorn the front the Raiders’ green jersey.

The sudden withdrawal came despite Huawei signing a two-season deal with the Raiders in June last year, which was due to run to the end of next season.

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has blamed tensions with the Australian government for its decision to pull out as the principal sponsor of the NRL's Canberra Raiders. Pictured are suporters at GIO Stadium in Canberra last year

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has blamed tensions with the Australian government for its decision to pull out as the principal sponsor of the NRL’s Canberra Raiders. Pictured are suporters at GIO Stadium in Canberra last year

Huawei Australia’s chief corporate affairs officer Jeremy Mitchell said an Australian government ban on its installing 5G mobile meant the Canberra Raiders chief sponsorship could not be justified.  

‘Even after the Turnbull government banned us from 5G we managed to find the resources to continue the sponsorship but we just can’t financially support it any longer,’ he said.

‘It is so disappointing that it has ended this way but are very proud of the small role we have played in this great NRL club.’ 

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull barred Huawei in August 2018 from tendering to install 5G mobile towers in one of his final acts as Liberal leader, before Scott Morrison replaced him.

This followed a 2012 ban on Huawei installing the National Broadband Network by order of Julia Gillard’s Labor government.

The decisions were made on security grounds, to prevent a company with close ties to the Chinese government from having a critical role in Australia’s communication infrastructure. 

Huawei Australia's chief corporate affairs officer Jeremy Mitchell said an Australian government ban on its installing 5G mobile meant the Canberra Raiders chief sponsorship could not be justified

Huawei Australia’s chief corporate affairs officer Jeremy Mitchell said an Australian government ban on its installing 5G mobile meant the Canberra Raiders chief sponsorship could not be justified

Huawei's logo was beamed into loungerooms across Australia in October last year as the Canberra Raiders faced off against the Sydney Roosters in the NRL grand final, only to lose 14-8 at western Sydney's ANZ Stadium. Pictured is a disappointed Joseph Tapine

Huawei’s logo was beamed into loungerooms across Australia in October last year as the Canberra Raiders faced off against the Sydney Roosters in the NRL grand final, only to lose 14-8 at western Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. Pictured is a disappointed Joseph Tapine

Huawei’s logo was beamed into loungerooms across Australia in October last year as the Canberra Raiders faced off against the Sydney Roosters in the National Rugby League grand final, only to lose 14-8 at western Sydney’s ANZ Stadium .

Huawei became the chief sponsor of the Raiders in 2011 – supporting the team followed by national capital public servants.

Back then Dennis Richardson, the former boss of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spy agency, took leave without pay from his position as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to broker a deal with Huawei while a board member of the NRL club.

Dennis Richardson, the former boss of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spy agency, took leave without pay from his position as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to broker a deal with Huawei while a board member of the NRL club

Dennis Richardson, the former boss of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spy agency, took leave without pay from his position as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to broker a deal with Huawei while a board member of the NRL club

While the Huawei logo will continue to feature on the back of Canberra Raiders jerseys, the NRL club said it was disappointed.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the Raiders were sad to lose Huawei as a major sponsor.  

‘We are very sad that they will be stepping back as major sponsor of the Raiders but we are very proud of all that we have achieved together and we hope we can finish this season off successfully,’ he said.

The Canberra Raiders were Huawei’s first-ever major sports sponsorship.

Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei was a member of the People’s Liberation Army before founding his technology company in 1987.

While Huawei is a private company, under Chinese law firms are obliged to co-operate with the Communist Party in gathering information.

The United States and India have followed Australia’s lead in banning Huawei from installing 5G mobile.

Unlike those two nations, however, Australia has not banned Chinese video-sharing social media app TikTok. 

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