World Rugby's China Deal With Ali Sports On Hold

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10 April 2018

Alisports’ US$100 million investment to develop rugby in China has been temporarily halted according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post as the world governing body assesses the fall-out of sweeping changes in mainland sports governance.

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper said at the HK Sevens last week that gradual changes implemented by China sports minister Gou Zhongwen has trickled down to various sporting bodies in the country and the China Rugby Union is one of those affected.

He said the programme, launched in April 2016, has been suspended for about two months – slowing down what was already a programme moving at snail’s pace.

“We signed an agreement with Alisport to work on developing rugby at grassroots level but also working on staging competitions in sevens and 15s, for men and women. That was the intention,” said Gosper.

Alisports, the sports division of tech giant Alibaba, said it would use the US$100 million – to be disbursed over 10 years – to set up professional leagues for men and women and a national sevens programme.

In addition, plans were afoot to introduce the sport into 10,000 universities and schools in an effort to attract one million new players over 10 years. They would also recruit and train 30,000 coaches and 15,000 match officials by 2020 while the company’s digital arm wold launch a nationwide marketing programme and broadcast rugby on its TV and digital channels.

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