HK aiming for a full house at Mong Kok
Rugby's popularity will be put to the test on Saturday when Hong Kong host Kazakhstan in the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five competition at Mong Kok Stadium, with officials hoping a good turnout will boost the home team as well as establish the game's credentials amongst the local community.
After 13 years, Hong Kong will return to Mong Kok Stadium to play an international game on grass and rugby boss Trevor Gregory is hoping the gamble will pay off in terms of fans pouring in through the turnstiles.
'We are hoping for a good turnout. We want the fans to come out and support Hong Kong and we want to see how well received the move is. It is a big game and the guys will need all the support they can get,' Gregory (pictured) said yesterday.
Apart from official hospitality packages at the game, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union is not charging an entry fee and officials are hopeful the newly redeveloped 6,600-seater Mong Kok Stadium will be at full capacity for rugby's first game in more than a decade.
'We decided to play this last game at Mong Kok Stadium out of choice. The last few times we played an Asian Five Nations game at the Hong Kong Football Club, it was full and we decided to give Mong Kok a go,' HKRFU chairman Gregory said.
'There has been a significant growth in the number of fans from the local community and we thought that now the Mong Kok Stadium has been redeveloped and since it is a good facility, we should take this opportunity and move to a bigger venue.'
Saturday's game will give the HKRFU a litmus test of fan support for rugby outside the popular Hong Kong Sevens, which has been sold out for the past few years.
Hong Kong Football Club, which has hosted all home games at the A5N since its inception five years ago has a capacity of around 2,000.
At the same time, the Hong Kong Stadium, with its 40,000-seat capacity is too big, and the minimum cost of booking the stadium is HK$150,000. Mong Kok is HK$7,700 offers a modestly bigger facility than the football club and hiring costs are HK$7,700.
'We get a huge sell-out crowd for the Hong Kong Sevens and it would be nice to see if other games like the A5N can also draw a similar response,' Gregory said.
'It would be fantastic for the players. A full house at Mong Kok will provide a great atmosphere.'
With three Hong Kong soccer First Division teams using Mong Kok Stadium as their base, it is unlikely the HKRFU will use the venue for local league games in the future, but Gregory said international fixtures could well be on the cards.
Hong Kong are in third place in the Top Five standings, behind winners Japan and South Korea, who host the United Arab Emirates. They will be looking to finish the season on a high with a convincing win over Kazakhstan who remain winless in this campaign.