• Alisports committed to US$100 million investment over 10 years to support all levels of rugby development in world’s most populous nation
  • Investment to support establishment of first-ever professional men’s and women’s league structures and national rugby sevens programmes
  • Unprecedented Get Into Rugby programme to attract and retain one million new players over next five years
  • Alisports to assist World Rugby in major marketing initiatives through its nationwide e-commerce, broadcast & digital platforms

Professional league structures and an ambitious mass participation programme supported by an unprecedented 10-year US$100 million investment programme are at the heart of a ground-breaking TEAM CHINA initiative aimed at unlocking the rugby potential of China.

TEAM CHINA is a long-term strategic partnership between World Rugby, Alibaba (through its Alisports division) and the China Rugby Football Association. It will see the e-commerce giant make a record rugby investment to support targeted projects over the next 10 years to drive national team performance and grow the participation base in the world’s most populous nation.

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, the project will initially focus on four main goals:

  • Establishment of first-ever professional men’s and women’s 15s leagues and national sevens programmes to drive forward China as a powerhouse on the international stage by creating dedicated high-performance pathways and support structures
  • World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby mass participation programme to be run in 10,000 universities and schools in 20 provinces with the target of attracting and retaining one million new players over the next five years.
  • Development programmes to achieve the recruitment and training of 30,000 coaches and 15,000 match officials by 2020
  • A major rugby marketing and promotion initiative that will see Alisports invest in nationwide marketing and promotional programmes while carrying rugby content on its TV and digital platforms and Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce platform

Speaking at the launch in Shanghai today, World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “World Rugby’s strategic mission is to grow the global rugby family. China is central to that mission and we are delighted to be announcing further details of our ground-breaking plans in partnership with Alisports and the China Rugby Football Association.

“Driven by a common vision, ambitious but attainable goals and an unprecedented investment programme, we are confident that we can build a strong and sustainable platform from which to ensure that China is in the best-possible position to become a major force on the international stage with strong men’s and women’s sevens and 15s teams, sustainable leagues, model development and participation programmes and real major event hosting potential.”

Today’s announcement furthers Alibaba’s commitment, through its Alisports division, to a sport it believes shapes the character of young men and women, promoting healthy bodies and minds.

Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Alisports, said: “Rugby is a great Olympic team sport with strong values, which is why we are so excited about its undoubted potential in China. We have a great partner in World Rugby and together we will work tirelessly to promote the development of rugby in China with a goal of inspiring one million new players in five years.

“With the support of World Rugby and a strong strategic plan, we believe that rugby in China will take off as an attractive, inclusive mass-participation sport of sportsmanship and character.”

With record investment in schools and university programmes, the project is set to achieve recognition by the Education Bureau under the Sunrise School Sport Program, which will completely transform the depth and breadth of schools programmes to reach potentially unprecedented participation levels for a domestic market.


China is a growth market for rugby: Participation in China has increased by 40 per cent in the last 12 months with 76,000 players, while the men’s and women’s teams continue to make strong progress on the international stage.

Participation increases are strong in the world’s most populous region: Asia is one of the most exciting rugby growth regions with overall participation having increased by 60,000 in 2015.

Today’s announcement builds on April’s confirmation that Alibaba, through its Alisports division, will invest record sums in the development of the sport in China. At that initial launch, it was announced that Alisports will support World Rugby and the China Rugby Football Association in three main areas:

  • Extending the reach of an ambitious mass participation, training and education programmes via World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby programme, 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. 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.
  • Alisports will also exclusively broadcast World Rugby content and programming across 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.