Alibaba are no strangers to making big bucks, and surprisingly enough they are at it again; ‘Baba’s owner Jack Ma has invested a mad $100m (£80.5m) into the Chinese Rugby scene; taking full effect over the next ten years, funding aspects from Children’s rugby schemes to club level Rugby. Although this may seem a lot of readies to have spare, it has not even put a dent in his mind-blowing $22.7b worth, must say, the guy’s doing pretty well!
This investment is a prime example of China’s boom in the sporting and especially the Rugby world, mixed with the keen eyes from a few very rich businessmen. This has not only led to more coverage of the sport in China, but has also seen a surprising 40% boost in rugby participation within China, when previously it was more for those kids whose parents made their decisions for them.
The rapid growth of the sport is showing an abundance of potential in the sport for children and parents alike, and the CEO of Alisports Zhang Dazhong agrees, stating that it will create a “global Rugby family”, which sounds pretty friendly considering the nature of the sport, but I must say it sounds very promising as even more businesses are rushing to invest in sport, after they have seen the massive potential for the growth of sport in China. Hopefully it will be the next step away from Rugby being seen as a niche sport as Business development manager of Beijing sport Tingting Zhang states; and one towards a vast global presence.
Although, as business always works, there has got to be something in it for Alibaba to even consider such an investment, and it’s all part of a master plan to take over South Asia’s Entertainment and E-commerce industry, sounds pretty evil huh? Not really, all they had to do was buy out the e-commerce giants which were ‘Lazada’ for an even more impressive $1b, proving that there is something to come for Chinese Rugby and sport as a whole.
This aspect seems to fit quite nicely considering one of the terms of the $100m investment into the sport was all the streaming rights, meaning Mr. (smart Al) Ma has got himself pretty much everything to do with Chinese Rugby and it’s not even started yet, there is much more to come!
Professor of Sports Enterprise at Salford Uni (Simon Chadwick) believes that entertainment and sports come very much hand in hand, and Jack Ma took advantage of this, giving himself an un-tapped resource for content, which will undoubtedly give Alisports a very unique selling point to build on, which they have, creating sites for fans to get merchandise and see clips of their favourite team.
As a whole, this investment is more than positive for everyone, allowing our International Rugby community to expand further and become more recognised; and as for Chinese Rugby, it will give the kids (and adults too) the chance to play in more than the seven cities that offer the chance to play competitively in China.
One thing that will be interesting to see… will China now be able to put up a show against their neighbours Hong Kong?! I guess we’ll soon see!