The Canberra Raiders are upping the ante to take the NRL to China for the first time next year after extending its major sponsorship with Huawei.
The Chinese telecommunications giant announced on Friday it would remain the major sponsor of the Raiders for 2014, with an option for another year in 2015.
Tentative plans are for the match to be held in April against Manly in the city of Shenzhen, which is the base of Huawei’s operations.
The sticking point is funding the extra costs in taking a premiership game away from Australia and New Zealand, but Huawei director of corporate public affair Jeremy Mitchell said various levels of government and several businesses have expressed their interest in helping make the game happen.
‘‘We’ve done some preliminary discussions with government, NSW and ACT and federal, and also with the Shenzhen government, and there’s widespread support for this,’’ Mitchell said.
‘‘The barriers that are placed are financial, and I think they are easily overcome because we’ve spoken to many companies who are willing to sponsor.
‘‘We’ve already chosen the stadium which would be best suited, so it’s well advanced, we’re just waiting for the green light from the NRL.’’
An NRL spokesman said discussions were continuing and the match remained a possibility to take place next year.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the uniqueness of the game and the ability to enter new markets were major selling points.
‘‘As long as we get support from the NRL (because) Huawei want it to happen, Kaspersky (Manly’s major sponsor) want it to happen and Manly certainly want it to happen,’’ Furner said.
‘‘There’s a lot of costs to get two teams up there and there are a lot of costs for the broadcasters.
‘‘It would be an unbelievable experience.’’
Huawei became the major sponsor of the Raiders last year, the first time the company has supported an Australian sporting team.
With Hong Kong only an hour from Shenzhen, a huge ex-pat community would be expected for the game along with curious locals.
Mitchell said Huawei would implement a marketing campaign to explain the rules of rugby league in Chinese, create viral videos and expected a crowd in excess of 40,000.
But more importantly would be having the match televised into China and its population of one billion people.
‘‘This is a real opportunity for the NRL to showcase the game on a global stage in a market everyone wants to get a piece of,’’ Mitchell said.
‘‘We will get 40,000 people in the stadium cheering, we will get it televised in China and we will get massive media interest in China for this sport.
‘‘We’re hoping the NRL will get behind it and support it and make it happen.’’
The NRL has shown this year it is prepared to take premiership games away from traditional venues.
Matches have been played in Perth, Darwin, Mackay and Mudgee, but this would be the first time a regular season game has been held outside of Australia or New Zealand.