Chinese payment platform Alipay is to invest RMB1bn ($145m/€129m) over the next decade to support the long-term development of women’s football in China.
The initiative is funded primarily by the Alipay Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to promoting social inclusiveness.
Other contributors include the Jack Ma Foundation and Joe Tsai Foundation, run on behalf of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman, and Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice-chairman, respectively.
The move is an extension of Alipay’s two-year-long programme to support girls’ football in Hainan Province, where several girls play in national youth teams.
The funds will be allocated in four main areas:
- Performance improvement of the China women’s national football team
- Injury prevention and treatment, and career development of retired footballers
- Technical development and coach education
- Youth development.
The use of funds will be jointly managed by the Alipay Foundation, Jack Ma Foundation, Joe Tsai Foundation and the Chinese Football Association.
It is unclear how the investment will be leveraged by the brand, although Chinese news sources maintain that its purpose is ‘non-commercial’ and that no branding rights will be attached to the women’s national team.
Alipay is a global partner of European football’s governing body, Uefa, but does not hold rights to Uefa’s women’s football competitions under its eight-year deal from 2019 to 2026. Instead, US payment brand Visa picked up the category rights in a deal from 2018-19 to 2024-25.
Last month, SportBusiness Sponsorship revealed the key role played by Jack Ma, an avid football fan, in the Uefa deal.
Alipay is owned by Ant Financial, an affiliate of the multi-billion-dollar Alibaba Group.