SINGAPORE - The Singapore Rugby Sevens is the latest local sporting event affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with governing body World Rugby confirming on Thursday afternoon (Feb 13) that the April 11-12 tournament has been postponed to Oct 10-11.
The marquee Hong Kong Sevens, scheduled for April 3-5, will be pushed back to Oct 16-18 as the new season finale.
World Rugby said in a statement: "The health and safety of our players, fans and everyone working on the event is always our highest priority. This prudent decision has been taken in order to help protect the global rugby community and the wider public and was taken based on the World Health Organisation and relevant public authority travel and health guidelines. The decision is fully supported by stakeholders, including unions and commercial partners."
Both Asian events are part of the prestigious HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The 2019-20 season has 10 legs and began in Dubai in December.
After four stops, New Zealand lead the current standings with 76 points, nine ahead of South Africa. France are third on 56 points. Defending champions and Olympic gold medallists Fiji are fifth on 53 points.
Paris was originally slated to host the finale on May 31 but the postponement of the Hong Kong and Singapore events will extend the season until October.
Those with Singapore Sevens tickets can use them for the new dates while full refunds will be given to fans who are unable to attend the October tournament at the National Stadium, said Sport Singapore.
The national sports agency took over the organising last year after Rugby Singapore, the commercial arm of the Singapore Rugby Union set up to organise the annual event, ran into financial difficulties.
The Republic rejoined the Sevens Series hosting circuit in 2016 after a nine-year absence and that edition drew 52,000 fans to the National Stadium. It was the first of a four-year deal which was renewed for another four years until 2023.
Last year's tournament drew 57,000 fans over the weekend and also featured international music acts like Smash Mouth and Broadway's Rock of Ages band.
Ernie Khoo, 49, who works in the finance industry and has attended the past three Singapore Sevens, said: “It’s the right decision in light of the situation.
“It’s for the safety of the spectators because we don’t know how long this will go on for.”
The coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has more than 60,000 cases worldwide and killed more than 1,300 people.
It has led to the cancellation or postponement of numerous high profile international sporting events, including the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in April and March's World Indoor Athletics Championships which was to be hosted in Nanjing.
In Singapore, the Feb 27-March 1 HSBC Women's World Championship golf tournament has been dropped.
Last Friday, the country's Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) was upped to "orange" as the virus spread further within the country, with more new cases of unknown origin announced.
Singapore's Ministry of Education has announced the suspension of the National School Games till next month, while organisations and national sports associations such as Special Olympics Singapore, the Singapore Disability Sports Council, Singapore Canoe Federation, Singapore Dragon Boat Association, and Fencing Singapore have cancelled their programmes and events.
But two high-profile sports events here are set to proceed. One Championship’s mixed martial arts live show will be held on Feb 28 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The organisation, which released its line-up for this year yesterday, noted that all events will run as scheduled aside from its April 11 fight in Chongqing, China, which will be moved to Jakarta and held a day earlier.
Organisers of the Singapore Badminton Open are hopeful the April 7-12 event, which features top shuttlers such as world No. 2 and defending champion Tai Tzu-ying and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, will go ahead.
Organising chairman Robert Lim said that they “will continue to monitor the situation closely”.
Other events in netball, basketball and football were held as scheduled, or are planning to go ahead. The Netball Super League last Saturday was played behind closed doors at Our Tampines Hub, while the Asean Basketball League game between the Singapore Slingers and Taipei Fubon Braves on Sunday drew 1,800 fans to the OCBC Arena.
The Singapore Premier League football competition will also kick off as scheduled on Feb 29, and the Football Association of Singapore said it would carry out precautionary measures such as temperature screening.
Tampines Rovers were the first club in action at home this season in the continental AFC Cup, beating Indonesia's PSM Makassar 2-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium in front of 1,266 fans in Group H.