Hong Kong football fans won’t be able to watch FA Cup final legally as troubled LeEco’s sports channel abandons coverage

The sports arm of troubled Chinese company announces it won’t be showing showpiece of English football season

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 4:52pm

Fans of Chelsea and Arsenal won’t be able to legally watch their teams take each other on in the English FA Cup final this weekend after a surprise announcement from broadcaster LeSports HK.

The channel, part of Chinese conglomerate LeEco, said “due to adjustments to programmes” they they would no longer be showing the showpiece of the English football season, without providing an explanation.

“LeSports HK sincerely apologises to users that have been affected by this arrangement, and will be offering a 3-month LeSports Super Sports Pack to affected users as compensation,” the firm said in a statement.

Then-unknown LeSports spent a staggering US$400 million to broadcast the English Premier League in Hong Kong.

In December, the coverage was interrupted, with LeSports denying that was because they had failed to make payments on time.

“We’re very disappointed obviously, though my friend told me that TVB might get the rights, so hopefully we can still see it,” said a member of the Arsenal Supporters’ Club Hong Kong, who wished to remain anonymous.

He said most fans would resort to illegal streams if they couldn’t watch it legitimately.

“Most of our members know there’s many ways to watch the team through the internet, but of course it’s better to watch on TV – and legally,” he added.

A LeEco spokesperson said no further comment than the statement would be made.

LeEco, which claims to be the Chinese Netflix and has ambitions to make everything from phones to electric cars, has seemingly been in meltdown in recent months in a major cash crunch.

On Tuesday, it said it would lay off nearly 70 per cent of its US staff, some 325 people.

That came a day after founder Jia Yueting stepped down as CEO.

“The challenges with raising new capital have made it difficult in the past few months to support all of our business priorities,” LeEco spokeswoman Kayla Harper told Agence France-Presse in relation to the US layoffs.

“As a result, the capital we do have will have to be highly focused resulting in a significant restructuring and streamlining of our business, operations and workforce.”

Jia said in November” “We are starting to see signs of big company disease, such as low individual performance and organisational redundancies.”