World Rugby and Alibaba, through its new sports division Alisports, have launched a ground-breaking strategic partnership that will see the global e-commerce giant make a significant long-term investment in the development of rugby in China.
The 10-year deal, brokered by CSM Sport and Entertainment, was announced by World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset, Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong and Executive Vice-president of Alibaba Group Joe Tsai at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, the seventh round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, on Sunday.
With rugby experiencing record participation growth and popularity across Asia, driven by rugby sevens’ Olympic Games inclusion and Japan’s hosting of Rugby World Cup 2019, Alisports will support World Rugby and the China Rugby Football Association (CRFA) in extending the reach of an ambitious mass participation, training and education programme. Alisports will invest in World Rugby’s Get Into Rugbyprogramme, targeting schools and universities in order to reach, inspire and retain new participants and unlock the growth potential of the world’s most populous nation. To support participation growth, a major overhaul of competition pathways within China will ensure unprecedented opportunity to access the game in a structured environment to promote men’s and women’s player pathways and national team development.
Alisports will also exclusively broadcast World Rugby content via Youku and other media platforms and as well as its multi-million reach internet-based, consumer-centric sports platform that aims to create value for sports industry participants and enhance consumers and sports fans engagement with sports teams and brands. The partnership will also see Alisports’ rich knowledge in e-commerce and internet-based technologies utilised to develop an official online store on T-Mall connecting fans with merchandise, content and rugby information. In addition, Alisports will consult with World Rugby to implement a best-practice environment for China to attract and host major rugby events within the next 10 years.Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Alisports, said: “Rugby is such an exciting game with much teamwork and we’ve recognized its exceptionally positive character-building values. We are delighted to partner with World Rugby and look forward to introducing and developing rugby in China mainland at every level. We encourage young people to join rugby to cultivate the sprit of being strong-willed, aggressive,acquisitive and unified. We will use our platform to showcase this excellent sport to millions of people.” Lapasset said: “Rugby continues to experience record global participation and profile growth and this exciting deal with one of China’s biggest entertainment and e-commerce giants is a reflection of the strong appetite for the sport in emerging rugby markets. “With global participation having doubled to 7.7 million since rugby was readmitted onto the summer Olympic Games programme in 2009, this deal will ensure an unprecedented platform for rugby to reach, engage and inspire new participants across China. “We have already seen a significant increase in interest and participation in China, with the women’s team winning a bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. Our collaboration with the China Rugby Football Association is presently focused on seven provinces but this partnership, built on a common passion for sport’s ability to promote community and healthy living, will enable us to achieve more ambitious targets around city, provincial and national men’s and women’s 15s and sevens competitions and programmes.
“With record investment in schools and university programmes, we will be well equipped to achieve recognition by the Education Bureau under the Sunshine School Sport Program, which will completely transform the depth and breadth of our schools programmes to reach potentially unprecedented participation levels. We look forward to partnering with Alisports to maximise potential within China.” Full details of the partnership, including investment, will be announced shortly.