The Singapore Sevens and the rest of this year's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series have been cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the sport's governing body announced yesterday amid trying times for the industry.
The Oct 10-11 Singapore leg, which attracted 16 international teams and 57,000 fans last year, had already been postponed from April 11-12.
The other remaining rescheduled legs of the 10-stop series - London, Paris and Hong Kong - have also been canned, with the men's and women's titles both awarded to leaders New Zealand. The All Blacks Sevens topped the standings with 115 points, 11 ahead of second-placed South Africa, the reigning Singapore Sevens champions.
"The decision follows detailed and constructive dialogue with the host and participating unions, and has been taken with the health and well-being of the rugby community and the wider public as top priority," a World Rugby statement said.
Local organisers said they "regret but are supportive of the decision".
Sport Singapore also backed the call, saying: "The health and safety of our fans, players and everyone... is always our highest priority.
"Ticket holders can enquire at singapore7s.com.sg for more information and refunds."
Tickets for this year's tournament will be valid for the next edition, which will be held from April 10-11 at the National Stadium.
Rugby fan Ernie Khoo, who works in the finance industry and has attended the past three Singapore Sevens, was expecting the October tournament to be cancelled.
The 49-year-old said: "It makes sense both financially and for the health and well-being of the spectators. It's a premature end but (there's) no choice because of the Covid situation, which hasn't died down after so many months."
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.
LOCAL SPORTS EVENTS CANCELLED
HSBC Women's World Championship (Feb 27-March 1)
Singapore Open (April 7-12)
Osim Sundown (May 23)
DRAGON BOAT RACING
DBS Marina Regatta (May 29-31)
International Champions Cup (July)
Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix (Sept 18-20)
HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens (Oct 10-11)
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong 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 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 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was suspended after the March 7-8 Vancouver leg.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: "Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations, and it firmly remains a top priority for our organisation.
"As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel, 2021 has potential to be a very exciting year for rugby sevens with the Tokyo Olympic Games on the horizon."
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.