The National Rugby League "sharpened its focus" on Cornulla by holding fresh talks with club powerbrokers over their "financial predicament" and following up with a request for them to provide "greater clarity" around the club's future, according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. Sharks officials held talks with the NRL last week and after those discussions, the club was sent a letter asking it to "provide more detailed information" by Dec. 21 about its current financial situation and its plans for the future. There are "concerns the club's existence is under threat." The club recently made a number of staff redundant but the NRL is "keeping a watching brief on Cronulla," cognizant that it must produce eight games each week as part of its contract with broadcasters the Nine Network and Fox Sports. There have been "whispers" that one "powerful" Queensland Cup side based in Brisbane was told to "ready itself in the event that one of the game’s existing 16 clubs falls over." The Sharks are "bullish about their future." It is believed the club told the NRL earlier this week that it expected to receive up to A$8M ($5.7M) early next year as part of an ongoing development at its home ground (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/7).
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is "turning to analytics to get the most out of fans and change the way athletic events are managed and people shop for gear," according to BLOOMBERG. After "getting its start with a service allowing users to track their workouts," a unit of Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is "now moving onto organized sports." Using marathons as a "guinea pig," it is "scooping up broadcast rights" and collecting information on participants and viewers to "sell them everything from running shoes to health insurance." The strategy "will then be replicated to other fields," including esports, football and basketball, as Alisports "carves a share of a Chinese sports industry" the government estimates could be worth 5T yuan ($728B) by '25. Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong said, "We are a platform that records big data on sports. Viewers watching sports on our sites now are directly connected with the e-commerce stores, something that couldn’t happen in the past." Zhang’s goal is to expand the three-year-old business to more than 100 million users by November of '19, triple the current level. Alisports "has brought in cash to help reach that target," raising more than 1.2B yuan in a series A financing round in April at a valuation of more than 8B yuan. While fitness apps and efforts to monetize sports are not "new in China, Alisports is counting on its position in Ma’s ecosystem to give it an edge." Marketing company China Skinny Founder Mark Tanner said, "Alibaba’s breadth and reach would allow them to make this more profitable than any other business trying the same thing" (BLOOMBERG, 12/5).