Alibaba E-auto have agreed to sponsor the FIFA’s Club World Cup for the next eight-years ©Getty Images

Jack Ma, the Chinese internet entrepreneur behind the Alibaba Group, has come to FIFA’s aid at this time of crisis for world football’s governing body.

An Alibaba Group brand - Alibaba E-auto - has agreed an eight-year sponsorship deal for FIFA’s Club World Cup.

The “presenting partnership” - running from 2015 to 2022, which will see the Chinese brand present the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at matches, due to start with Sanfrecce Hiroshima versus Auckland City tomorrow – may not be entirely unrelated to the presence at this year’s tournament in Japan of Guangzhou Evergrande.

Alibaba bought 50 per cent of the Guangzhou club, which last month beat Al-Ahli in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League final, in 2014.

Evergrande face Mexico’s Club América in Osaka on December 13, with the winner lined up for a prestige semi-final against the Barcelona of Lionel Messi, Luís Suárez and Neymar four days later.

Alibaba E-auto plans to launch what is billed as its first “internet car”, together with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) next year.

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive, said sport was “at the intersection of Alibaba Group’s strategic themes of health and happiness” and that the company looked forward to “adding new value for participants and consumers in the sports sector through data-driven internet technology”.

Partnering with a major sporting event such as the FIFA Club World Cup was also “an important part of Alibaba Group’s globalisation strategy for connecting China to the world,” Zhang added.

Alibaba own 50 percent of Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, who will participate in this year's edition of the Club World Cup
Alibaba own 50 percent of Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, who will participate in this year's edition of the Club World Cup, which is due to start tomorrow in Japan ©Getty Images

FIFA’s marketing director Thierry Weil said the body was “delighted to welcome Alibaba E-Auto as Presenting Partner of the FIFA Club World Cup” and “excited to be working closely with them to embark on a journey to reach fans across the world”.

FIFA also hoped to benefit from the Chinese group’s innovation, Weil went on, and was looking forward to “seeing what they can bring to the FIFA Club World Cup over the next eight years”.

Lower-than-expected marketing income was thought to be part of the explanation for a 2015 deficit forecast of around $100 million (£67 million/€94 million) that was said to have been given to the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Zurich last week.

It could be that this new deal may help to reduce that figure.

A deficit of $30 million (£20 million/€28 million) after depreciation and taxes was originally projected.

International football has seen a wave of Chinese investment in recent times, with more expected.

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