Coronavirus: HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns

Ratu Meli Derenalagi (in white) competing at 2019's HSBC Singapore Sevens at the National Stadium. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SPORTS HUB

SINGAPORE - The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers announced on Tuesday (June 30).

The tournament, which last year attracted 16 international teams and 57,000 fans to the National Stadium, had already been postponed once, from April 11-12 to Oct 10-11.

According to Sport Singapore, World Rugby has cancelled the four remaining legs of the 10-stop series "in response to continued health concerns relating to the Covid-19 pandemic".

In a statement, it added: "Sport Singapore regrets but is supportive of the decision by World Rugby to cancel the remaining rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens 2019/20 Series.

"The health and safety of our fans, players and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority.

"Ticket holders can enquire at this website for more information and refunds."

Organisers had said earlier this month that they were still assessing the feasibility of proceeding with the sport's global governing body and that they were "proceeding with event planning… with spectators in mind".

Despite this, hosting the tournament would have been challenging given the travel restrictions in place, casting doubt on whether foreign fans, who made up about a quarter of spectators in previous editions and teams would be able to come.

It still remains unknown if large-scale events will be permitted to take place in October in Singapore.

Sports returned in Singapore as the country moved into Phase 2 of the easing of circuit breaker measures on June 19, but competitions and large-scale events have not been allowed to resume.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had said on June 15 that it could take months before Singapore enters the third and final stage of its reopening, and even then, there would be limits on gathering sizes for social, cultural, religious and business events.

Although it is tough to predict how the coronavirus situation will evolve over the next few months, infectious disease specialist Dr Piotr Chlebicki felt that it was best not to stage events with large crowds.

Dr Chlebicki, who practises at Mount Alvernia Hospital, said: "Big crowds are a perfect set-up for transmission that we are not ready to allow.

"Who knows what will happen in October, but from what we hear about reopening in the United States where the number of cases increased soon after reopening, it's likely that it'll happen in other countries."

There is also uncertainty over the readiness of rugby to return to the international sporting fold.

Many in the game fear it could lag behind other sports in making a return because it is a full-contact sport, although the Australian Rugby League and Super Rugby Aotearoa have resumed in recent weeks.

The 10-leg HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was suspended after the March 7-8 Vancouver competition. The final four tournaments - London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong - were initially postponed.

The cancellation of the Singapore Sevens comes shortly after the axing of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, which was set to take place just three weeks before the rugby event.

The Singapore Sevens, which the Republic secured rights to host till 2023 last year, has attracted a total of 197,000 spectators since its inaugural edition in 2016 and had a direct economic impact of $21.5 million in 2016, $23.5 million in 2017 and $27.6 million in 2018.

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