Singapore's new stadium 'could be threat to HK hosting big events'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 September, 2010, 12:00am

Singapore could become a serious rival to Hong Kong hosting big internationals once an agreed 55,000-capacity all-weather stadium is built in the Lion City, by 2014, a top rugby union official has warned.

'They could become our competitors in hosting rugby internationals, and we could face a serious challenge once their new stadium is ready,' Rob Knight, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) executive director, said yesterday.

'Unless we have similar facilities up and running, we could see problems in hosting a second major international event to the Hong Kong Sevens after 2014.'

The HKRFU will, for the second time, host the Bledisloe Cup showdown between the All Blacks and the Wallabies on October 30 at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.

The Singapore Sports Council last week signed a contract with Singapore Sports Hub Consortium to design, build, finance and operate the new Sports Hub, after it was stalled for nearly two years. It is scheduled to open in 2014.

The hub will centre on a 55,000-seater National Stadium, with a retractable roof and a cooling system that will blow treated air from chillers through holes in the tier below each seat, controlling the temperature inside the venue. It will be built on the site of the old stadium in Kallang, which will be demolished next month.

Other facilities at the sports hub will include a 6,000-seater indoor aquatics arena, a sports museum, indoor courts, state-of-the-art training and recovery facilities, about 41,000 square metres of business, commercial and retail space, and a sports institute.

The construction cost of more than HK$7 billion will be borne by the Singaporean government.

It was reported that the deal between the government and the consortium is the largest sports-infrastructure public-private partnership project in the world.

'Once the Singapore Sports Hub comes on board, we will have to confront the issue of remaining competitive,' Knight said. 'The cost of hiring the stadium will then become a huge factor for us.'

The HKRFU will have to pay 20 per cent of gate receipts, which will run into millions of dollars, to hire the Hong Kong Stadium for the Bledisloe Cup.

'It is now cheaper to host an international match in Dubai, Singapore or Tokyo,' Knight said after a HKRFU plea for a reduction in hiring costs was turned down this year.

'Why would overseas unions want to come to Hong Kong if they can make more money in those places?' Knight revealed that it cost nothing to hire stadiums in those three cities, which are seen as Hong Kong's main rivals on the international-rugby stage in Asia.

Tokyo hosted the Bledisloe Cup last year. Dubai is already a threat and has plans to host important internationals. Singapore will become a threat by 2014.

'Singapore can become a problem to our plans of hosting teams from the southern hemisphere in October or November,' Knight said.

'We still think Hong Kong is a better destination and we are better organised and have a better and larger rugby community. But at the end of the day, if we are not financially viable, it will make life difficult for us.'

The HKRFU is committed to trying to host a big international event every year aside from the Hong Kong Sevens. It is pursuing the idea of hosting the British and Irish Lions in 2013 en route to Australia.

'If Hong Kong had its own stadium with a roof, that would give us the opportunity of looking every year at that time frame, too,' Knight said. 'The Lions is a one-off plan.

'We cannot compete against Singapore for this time slot, which is when it is possible to attract teams from the northern hemisphere. Thankfully, they won't be ready by 2013.'

A new sports hub for Hong Kong, including a 50,000-seat stadium, is scheduled to be completed at Kai Tak by 2018.