Now LPGA ends Alisports relationship after failed event
By Florence Lloyd-Hughes
Golf’s LPGA has ended its event-hosting relationship with Alisports, the sports arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant, Sportcal has learned.
In 2016, the LPGA entered a 10-year agreement with Alisports to stage a revamped annual tournament in mainland China from last year onwards.
However, the inaugural ‘Alisports LPGA’ tournament in Shanghai was cancelled over failure to secure government approval.
It has now emerged that the LPGA has cut ties with Alisports following the cancellation of the event.
The two parties had a separate streaming rights agreement which has also now expired.
When the tournament was dropped last year it marked the second time in three years that the event, previously known as the Reignwood LPGA Classic, had been scrapped.
Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner, said at the time that he expected the tournament, operated by Alisports and backed by the China Golf Association and the China LPGA Tour, to return in 2018.
The event started in 2013 and has customarily been held in Beijing, although it was due to take place in Shanghai last year, with a prize fund of $2.1 million.
Last week, IMG, the sports and entertainment company, and Buick, the US car company, unveiled a five-year deal to support a new LPGA Tour event in Shanghai.
Buick has signed up as the title sponsor of the event, while IMG will handle the promotion and organisation of the tournament.
The Buick LPGA Shanghai has been co-sanctioned by the USA-based LPGA, the China Golf Association and the Chinese Ladies Professional Golf Association.
The inaugural edition of the tournament will be held at the Qizhong Garden Golf Club from 18 to 21 October 2018, and carry a prize purse of $2.1 million.
In October 2016, Alisports committed to invest $100 million over 10 years in rugby union in China, as part of a long-term partnership with World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body.
But last month, in a development that echoed the LPGA situation, it was revealed that the deal had been put on hold because of changes in sports governance in the country.
Brett Gosper, World Rugby’s chief executive, told the South China Morning Post: “We signed an agreement with Alisports to work on developing rugby at grassroots level, but also working on staging competitions in sevens and fifteens, for men and women. That was the intention…
“It’s been slowed down recently by a change in the government’s administrative approach in China and what we have done is put [this programme] on hold for a month or two until we get clarity on who is leading rugby in China.”
The Alisports fund is intended to go towards development of rugby union in China, including the creation of the first-ever professional men’s and women’s leagues, as well as a national rugby sevens programme, as the discipline now forms part of the Olympic Games programme.
The ‘Get Into Rugby’ initiative aims to attract 1 million new players over the next five years.
Alibaba’s focus has been on generating growth for its digital content and commerce offering and last year it agreed a 12-year deal with the International Olympic Committee involving: providing cloud computing infrastructure and cloud services; customising the Olympic Channel for a Chinese audience; and creating a global e-commerce platform for Olympic stakeholders.
With more than half a billion customers, and acting on behalf of more than 10 million small businesses and 100,000 brands at present, Alibaba’s long-term goal is to reach 2 billion customers and tens of millions of merchants.
In an interview with Sportcal Insight earlier this year, Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group, discussed the company’s digital plans, saying: “We’re not interested in joining the long list of people buying XYZ rights to ABC. We’re not interested in rights that are not differentiating. Two years ago, we weren’t looking at the Olympic opportunity, but we had been thinking about our sport strategy, and then we started looking at the Olympics, and asking ourselves, what is our vision, mission and dream? And the more we looked at it, we saw a huge convergence."Sportcal