Credit: Tom Mulholland/EMPICS Sport

Southampton Football Club’s front-of-short sponsor LD Sports has reportedly decided to cancel its three year deal with the side after just one season, according to the Mail on Sunday.

The newspaper’s source explained that Southampton are already in the process of looking for a new main club sponsor ahead of the 2020/21 season in anticipation of the sports content, marketing and entertainment platform’s decision.

LD Sports’ decision to pull out of the deal two year early, which reportedly will see Southampton lose £15m, is apparently due to financial concerns over COVID-19 and also the political situation between the UK and China.

The Chinese company, according to the Mail on Sunday, had a break clause in its agreement which could be activated this summer. Additionally, the Premier League side has already released its new kit for the upcoming season with LD Sports’ logo, meaning that if the deal was to be cancelled then the shirts sold will have the wrong sponsor.

Southampton is apparently aware of this and will provide its fans with certain options when the cancellation has officially been announced.

The report also stated that Southampton may not be the only Premier League side to lose a Chinese sponsor, with one other unnamed club apparently in a similar situation regarding a partnership for the 2020/21 campaign.

LD Sports’ cancellation follows on from the news of growing tensions between the Premier League and Chinese broadcasters over TV payments and rights deals.

Suning Holdings, the firm that holds the broadcast rights for the Premier League in China, has withheld its £160m payment which was scheduled to be paid in March. As such, England’s top-tier has rejected an extension with the firm which will cover three seasons from 2022.

This has recently led China’s state television broadcaster to demote the Premier League from its main sports channel, lowering its viewership in the process.

It has been well reported that the Chinese TV deal is the most profitable broadcast partnership outside of the UK for the competition, with the current three year deal totalling an estimated £564m, highlighting the significant financial impact that could be caused if the league does not either secure an extension or another broadcast partner.

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