Millions lost on hosting Bledisloe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union lost millions of dollars in staging the DHL Bledisloe Cup encounter on Saturday because fans stayed away, said chairman Trevor Gregory.

'I can't go into exact details, but yes, we made a loss from this fantastic game and it will be in the seven-figure range,' Gregory said, a day after the Wallabies broke a 26-month hoodoo and snapped a 10-game losing streak against the All Blacks with a 26-24 victory.

Chances of another Bledisloe Cup in Hong Kong will depend on the game being 'meaningful' with the silverware at stake and if there are no other distractions such as the World Cup, to be played in New Zealand in less than a year from now, which kept many overseas fans away at the weekend. New Zealand had already secured the title this year before arriving in Hong Kong.

Gregory (pictured) revealed the HKRFU had waived its management fee, resulting in the loss. Both the Australian Rugby Union and the New Zealand Rugby Union also made smaller profits than expected.

'We had to waive our management fee for hosting this match because ticket sales made it difficult to fund the teams. We had to show a willingness to have the game here,' he said.

With a crowd of only 26,210 watching the drama unfold at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium - Wallaby James O'Connor scored after the hooter and then claiming the winning points with the last kick of the game - it meant more than HK$10 million worth of tickets were unsold.

'If we had a full house, we would have made a small profit. While we are happy and proud to have hosted this game, it has cost us money which we can't recover,' Gregory said.

'Part of our rationale for having a second major international event is to reduce our reliance on the Hong Kong Sevens, our major source of income which funds all our development from the grass roots to senior level.

'If anything was to happen to the Sevens it would harm our development programme and that is why we need a second source of income,' Gregory said.

Despite the financial setback, the HKRFU is committed to bringing top-class international 15-a-side rugby to the city. The British and Irish Lions are already scheduled to stop over in 2013 on their way to Australia and will play the British Barbarians.

'We are confident the Lions game will be a sellout and we have no fears that that game will be a loss,' Gregory said. 'But in future, we will need to carefully select which game we bring to Hong Kong.

'If we did the Bledisloe Cup again, it will have to be meaningful in that it should be the decider as that would give us more certainty [of] commercial success. For us, Saturday's game was a great event but going forward we need to be assured that we won't lose money by hosting it,' he said.

Next year, with the World Cup in New Zealand, the Bledisloe Cup will be decided over two games, home and away. From 2012, when the Tri-Nations will expand to include Argentina, the Bledisloe Cup will be decided on a best-of-three format with the third game alternating between Australia and New Zealand.

'Those unions can decide if they want to play that third game at home, or offshore in a place like Hong Kong,' Gregory said. 'We want to continue hosting big games like this for our ultimate aim is to have some of the 2019 World Cup matches [hosted by Japan] and it is important to show the rest of the world we can host major internationals.'

The Wallabies and the All Blacks left yesterday for Europe for their respective tours of the northern hemisphere.