Rugby: Singapore keen to extend HSBC Rugby Sevens run

Canada's Matt Mullins, challenged by American Perry Baker, scoring the first try in this year's Singapore Sevens final at the National Stadium. Baker scored two tries but Canada won 26-19.
Canada's Matt Mullins, challenged by American Perry Baker, scoring the first try in this year's Singapore Sevens final at the National Stadium. Baker scored two tries but Canada won 26-19. ST FILE PHOTO

Goal is to host another four-year tournament cycle from 2020 as bid documents are in the pipeline

They are only halfway through their contract to host a leg of World Rugby's HSBC Sevens Series, but Rugby Singapore (RS) has already begun work to bid for the next four-year cycle from 2020.

RS, a subsidiary and the commercial arm of the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU), was set up to organise the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens from 2016, and is preparing for next year's edition on April 28-29 at the National Stadium.

"The HSBC Sevens has elevated the relevance of the sport to the community," said SRU president Terence Khoo.

"We need to deepen our relationships with the Sports Hub, the Singapore Tourism Board, other unions, promoters and tournaments, to make Singapore a viable destination, a viable alternative to where they play their matches."

While RS will focus on the Singapore Sevens next year, it will look at the possibility of hosting other matches, like last year's Italy-Scotland Test match, in the future.

Khoo has tasked a new team at RS to do this. David Lim, an SRU executive committee member, replaced former SRU president Low Teo Ping as RS chairman in October, while Michael Wong, a former senior executive at global sports management company IMG, was appointed general manager in June.

Lim, 46, said World Rugby brought forward the bid process for the hosting rights in the next four-year cycle of the HSBC Sevens Series, with a sub-committee formed to work on the relevant documents.

Lim expects RS to submit the final bid document around April next year, and World Rugby to announce the results in the second half of the year.

At the same time, RS needs to deliver a good 2018 edition that would appeal to both locals and international visitors.

"We are very focused on developing an affinity between this flagship event and the rugby community here, such as the schools and clubs," he said.

Ideas include engaging local clubs to host the tournament's fringe events, such as club tournaments, and talking to regional touring teams to play in a 10s competition, with the hope that they would also watch the Singapore Sevens.

It ties in with SRU's mission to get people here to be more interested in the sport, and to play the game at social or international levels.

Khoo said: "These events are great promotional tools, but they are a means to an end, which is the aspiration for younger players to play, opportunities for transfer of knowledge from world-class coaches, team managers, rugby clinics, meet and greets, and to get more people interested in the sport."

  • $6-7m Cost of hosting the Singapore Sevens.

    34,000 Spectators this year, down from 52,000.

    $300 Most expensive tickets this year.

The Singapore Sevens is also an important cash cow, with the profits going into the development of the sport here.

While Lim declined to reveal how much RS makes from organising the event, he said it is less than what SRU gets from Government funding, which amounts to between $750,000 and $1 million.

The tournament costs between $6 million and $7 million to organise, according to previous media reports, with adult tickets costing $40 to $300 this year.

The Singapore Sevens attracted 52,000 fans last year, but drew just 34,000 this year as it coincided with the Easter weekend.

But Lim is optimistic of at least matching the 2016 crowd next year.

"We are looking at about 30,000 spectators (each day)... We were back-to-back with the Hong Kong Sevens in the previous two years but it won't be the case next year," he said. "It would be interesting to see how we fare as a stand-alone event."

The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens 2018 will be held from April 28-29. Tickets cost between $25 and $320, with early-bird discounts available till Jan 5.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore keen to extend HSBC Rugby Sevens run'. Print Edition | Subscribe