×

Alibaba has struck a ten-year deal with World Rugby to broadcast and develop rugby union in China.

The e-commerce and entertainment giant announced the multi-million dollar pact between its Alisports division and the sport’s governing body on Sunday during the annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament.

Alisports will “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,” the two parties said in a statement.

World Rugby organizes tournaments including the once every four years World Cup, the Sevens World Series and the Women’s Sevens Series. (Rugby Union is normally played with 15 players. Sevens is a crowd-pleasing, shorter and faster version of the game that will this year be played at the Olympic Games for the first time.)

The deal commits Alisports to supporting World Rugby and the China Rugby Football Association (CRFA) in extending the reach of an ambitious mass participation, training and education program, with the aim of having a million participants in China by the end of the term. That compares with a current estimate of 7.7 million players worldwide. It is expected to invest in World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby scheme, targeting schools and universities in order to reach and retain new participants.

Popular on Variety

The deal follows similar development deals in China between other sports and Internet platofrms. These include the NBA and ESPN with Tencent, Major League Baseball and Le Eco and between soccer’s FIFA and Wanda.

In an echo of the Wanda deal, Alisports and World Rugby said they will work together to attract and host major rugby events to China within the next 10 years.

“Rugby is such an exciting game with much teamwork and we’ve recognized its exceptionally positive character-building values,” said Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Alisports.

“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,” World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said.