Soccer, known to the rest of the world as “football,” is a widely popular sport the world over, closely followed from Rio de Janeiro to Dakkar to Beijing. While football is played throughout the world, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)’s competitions are widely popular, with the UEFA Champion’s League Final’s prize money totaling a whopping $108 million, compared to the NFL Super Bowl’s paltry $14.9 million. Moreover, while the 2015 Champion’s League Final drew a viewership of 380 million, the Super Bowl XLIX drew in only 114 million viewers, which is considered a record for US television.
Ant Financial’s Alipay mobile platform seems to want a piece of this burgeoning market. Alipay has partnered with UEFA to bring its payments platform to events sanctioned by games featuring the organization’s men’s national football teams, most notably the Euro 2020 and Euro 2024 tournaments. The terms of the arrangement, to last eight years, were not made public as of November, 2018, according to CNBC.
“I think the future of football as future in principle is in digitalization, and we are in Europe quite far behind concerning that, so we got a proper partner for that, and I think we will do great things together,” said Aleksander Ceferin, the president of the UEFA. Ant Financial Chief Executive Eric Jing echoed those sentiments, saying that the UEFA is “looking at how they can use Alipay’s digital technology to increase engagement between football and their fans.”
While Ant Financial did not say which products the deal would encompass, but it did note that the goal behind the partnership was to bring “digital innovation to football fans, enhance their onsite experience and provide seamless payment and other services to fans in Europe and across the world.”
Since Alipay is only available to those with Chinese bank accounts, the deal will be focused on Chinese tourist heading to UEFA football tournaments. However, an Ant Financial spokesperson told CNBC that some of Ant Financial’s partner wallets could be involved in the partnership, such as Paytm in India, Kakao Pay in South Korea, and several wallet partners across South East Asia.
The Bottom Line
Eric Jing said that “football is a common language; it’s a universal language, everyone – irrespective of age, where you are, how rich you are – everyone can play football.” As universally popular as football is, the deal between Alipay and UEFA could help the latter reach further to the Chinese and broader Asian market and make it easier for people in that region to buy tickets. For Alipay, the move represents yet another effort in a concerted attempted to bring the Chinese mobile payment platform beyond the Middle Kingdom’s borders.