It is the biggest investment in women’s soccer in China ever, according to Alipay.
Alipay wants to bring “technology, funds and resources to better support the development of women’s soccer in China,” a spokesman for the company said on Monday. He also noted that it is not a sponsorship, so it comes with “no commercial strings attached.”
The money will be used to support several initiatives including the “performance improvement of the China Women’s National Football Team,” and the development of young players, Alipay said in a statement on Friday.
This “is a smart business move that also can have positive social benefits,” said Duncan Clark, author of “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built.”
The prize for the 2018 men’s World Cup stood at $400 million, while female players will receive $30 million this year. Gianni Infantino, president of global soccer’s governing body FIFA, said the organization will double it for the next women’s World Cup in 2023. But USWNT star Megan Rapinoe says that isn’t enough.
“It certainly is not fair,” she said. “We should double it now and use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time.”
Alipay hopes to change that. The company wants to be the “strongest advocate” for China women’s soccer, CEO Eric Jing said in a statement Friday.
Mark Dreyer, a Beijing-based journalist who has covered Chinese sports for more than a decade, said the investment from Alipay is a big number and good to see, “but when it’s spread over 10 years, it suddenly becomes less spectacular.”
It will take at least a generation to build a globally competitive soccer team, Dreyer said. “China has turbocharged everything from its economy to its industries … but you can’t speed up the development of people.”
The pledge to women’s soccer is not Alipay’s first investment into the sport, nor its biggest. The company in November struck a €200 million ($225 million) sponsorship deal with European football body UEFA to be its official global payment partner.
Alibaba, whose affiliate Ant Financial owns Alipay, has a longer history with soccer. The Chinese tech giant bankrolls football club Guangzhou Evergrande, which won the Asian Champions League in 2013 and 2015, and became the first Chinese club to win a place in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2013.