Our sports officials need to learn a rugby lesson

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 October, 2010, 12:00am

While Hong Kong continues to deliberate whether to bid for the Asian Games, the ways in which local sports development can be improved have been the topic of much debate in recent months. In spite of this, and the government's professed interest in how to develop local sport, the fact that rugby union's top two teams, New Zealand and Australia, have been in town preparing for tomorrow's Bledisloe Cup tie seems to have gone unnoticed amongst our ministers.

Some of the game's most exciting players have been at the centre of community events, meeting fans, visiting schools and hosting training camps. Mini-rugby clubs have been assigned tickets to encourage children and their families to witness a world-class sporting event. In the morning, before the match, the Hong Kong Mini Rugby Football Union will attempt to break a Guinness World Record by hosting the largest mini-rugby tournament with some 3,000 youngsters in 300 teams playing about 500 games.

If, as expected, the union succeeds in breaking the record, Hong Kong will officially become the world capital for mini-rugby, supplementing its status as the host of the most successful rugby sevens tournament. It is a fitting tribute to our rugby authorities who have always put community sport at the heart of their plans. Tomorrow, they will have created a solid line of development linking the game at the community level, with children as young as four in the mini-rugby tournament, with the top professional players in the world who play in the nearby stadium afterwards. Much can be learnt through these series of events about how to ensure the investment in bringing world-class competition to Hong Kong goes back into development of local sport, and yet our sports officials seem disinterested.

The Bledisloe Cup match is failing to fill the stadium due to a variety of factors, and yet ironically local rugby has benefited from it due to the players' community events.

One of the reasons cited for slow ticket sales was that the poor quality of the pitch two years ago, managed by a government department, spoilt the spectacle. Nevertheless, on display will be the world's best rugby team, even though the population of New Zealand, at a little over 4 million, is less than that of Hong Kong. Even if the government were to ignore our small but successful rugby community, it should at least learn from it, before it again tries to convince the public that the bid to host the Asian Games is in the interest of developing local sport.