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Huawei continues sport sponsorship deal in Australia

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Huawei renewed its sponsorship deal with an Australian rugby league team for another two years and said Thursday it hopes the country will lift its ban on the Chinese communication giant's involvement in the nation's 5G networks.

Huawei has been the major sponsor of the Canberra Raiders, the capital city's only team in the National Rugby League competition, since 2012. The Raiders were Huawei's first sponsorship contract with a sports team anywhere in the world.

But whether that sponsorship would be continued beyond the current three-year contract came under question when the Australian government banned the world's biggest telecom gear producer in August from participating in the next generation 5G rollout on security grounds.

Huawei Australian chairman John Lord said the renewed sponsorship ideal was a sign of his company's "deep commitment to long-term engagement in the Australian market." "I, John Lord, and the board of Huawei hope that further down the track there may be room in Australia for Huawei to participate in 5G, but that is a decision for national governments and it's up to us to keep showing the government the advantages of including Huawei in the Australian 5G network," Lord said.

The renewed sponsorship was welcomed by Raiders board member Dennis Richardson, a former head of the Defense Department and of the main domestic spy agency, Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

"I don't have to support or otherwise the decision of the government. I support the Canberra Raiders and I welcome any sponsorship that we get from Huawei," Richardson said. Huawei's current sponsorship deal, which includes displaying the Huawei logo prominently on the team's uniform, expires when the 2019 season ends in September.

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

Neither Huawei nor the Raiders revealed the value of the sponsorship deal. Britain is currently considering Huawei's involvement in its 5G network. Last month, Washington put Huawei on a blacklist that effectively bars American firms from selling to the company without government approval. U.S. officials have accused Chinese technology companies such as Huawei of stealing trade secrets and threatening cybersecurity — possibly at the behest of the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese authorities say the United States is exaggerating security concerns to block a potential competitor.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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