Jack Ma and China have joined the scrum.
In 2016, Alisports – the subsidiary of Ma’s Alibaba charged with driving the growth of the domestic sporting sector in China – pledged to sink USD100 million into efforts to develop rugby in China.
It appears that investment is bearing fruit. Alisports VP Wei Quanming is on record saying that a Rugby Sevens tournament featuring a potentially sizable payout and the top eight teams in the HSBC World Series Sevens standings is coming to Shanghai.
“On October 20 or late October, we will invite eight teams with the best records to Shanghai,” Wei goes on to detail “[The venue] will be in Yangpu District.”
World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper alluded to such an event happening in a past interview:
“We are in the process of discussing a Masters Sevens tournament, which could be held as early as this year. It would be the top eight of the World Series finishers competing for the highest ever prize money we have seen in sevens – like the Barclays ATP Tournament in tennis. In order to be seen as a premier event it needs something specific, and prize money would seem to be a good way of doing that.”
At this time, is not clear if the upcoming tournament in China will indeed pay out the largest sum seen in a Sevens tournament.
Not that such a thing would be difficult. The HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, long seen as the premier Sevens tournament in the world, memorably paid no prize money in 2016. In other years, the payout was USD150,00; a paltry .15 percent of Alisports USD100 million-dollar stake in the sport.
This year, South Africa, England, Fiji, New Zealand, USA, Australia, Scotland, Canada all finished in the top eight of the World Series Sevens.
Rugby is not the first major Western sport to come to Shanghai, but it is the first one to be played outside of the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The National Hockey League (NHL), the NBA and USA college basketball teams have all played exhibition games in China. Each time they played in Xuhui’s state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Arena.
One thing that is likely is that the Chinese national rugby team, guaranteed a seat at the table due to their host nation status, will get tons of exposure and experience playing against the top eight rugby nations on the planet. It is also likely that no one will be passing out in the urinal of this Shanghai Sevens, unlike at its booze-laden Hong Kong counterpart...
READ MORE: The Best Booze-Fueled Moments from the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens
[Images via the Province, South China Morning Post, That's]
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