The 2016 Olympics are just around the corner and Rugby fans all over the world are excited. Their sport has finally returned to the summer games after nearly a century long absence.
But besides the Olympics, rugby is also rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports in the U.S. with a new pro rugby league up and running. CCTV’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports from Colorado.
Return of Rugby to Olympics helps growth in US, ChinaThe 2016 Olympics are just around the corner and Rugby fans all over the world are excited. Their sport has finally returned to the summer games after nearly a century long absence.
On a wintry spring Sunday in Denver, Colorado, crews cleared the playing field as athletes prepared to compete in a sport that’s taking on a new look in the U.S.
“I think this is what everybody in rugby and the rugby community in America has been waiting for a long time.” Rugby Player Zach Fenoglio said.
Welcome to Pro Rugby, the first team sport professional league to launch in the U.S. since Major League Lacrosse 15 years ago.
“It’s been a challenge right, putting together five teams, 150 players, 15 coaches, all of the above. So to be within 30 minutes of the game kicking off, I’m pretty excited,” Steve Lewis Pro Rugby Director said.
On this day, teams from Denver and the U.S. state of Ohio butted heads, often literally. The action is fast, furious and jarring, which is why fans love the sport, says Pro Rugby’s director.
It’s full on for 40 minutes. That’s how long the two halves are. The only break players get comes during a short intermission.
And rugby has not only gone pro, it’s headed for the Olympics. Rugby was last part of the Olympics in 1924. 92 years later, it’ll be back this summer in Rio. Men’s and women’s teams from 12 countries will be competing.
Rugby is also getting a major boost in China. In March, Alibaba signed a 10 year deal with World Rugby for rights to broadcast exclusive content.
Alisports will show matches on platforms like Youku and Tudou. World Rugby also said it would work with Alibaba to bring major rugby events into China.
The deal fits in with the government’s plans to transform the country’s sports market into a trillion-dollar market by 2025.
Reports say that ambition is what’s driving Alibaba’s big bet on sports. Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant also recently secured a broadcast deal with the National Football League, or NFL, the professional American football league.
Ma also backs Le Sports which inked a broadcast deal with Major League Baseball. The company is also heavily involved in sponsorships.
In the last few months it signed agreements with the world governing soccer body FIFA and European football clubs Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Alibaba also co-owns Chinese champion Guangzhou Evergrande.
André Richelieu on Alibaba’s sports aspirations
For more on Alibaba’s athletic ambitions, CCTV’s Rachelle spoke with André Richelieu. Twitter: @esg_uqam
He’s an expert on brand management and sports marketing. He also co-authored the book “Sports Marketing.”