Hong Kong Sevens

Where work and play intersect

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am


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Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success. Sevens boxholders operate on this principle. After 35 years of the Hong Kong Sevens, clearly business and rugby have much in common. Teamwork not only makes the teams on the field successful, it also helps these corporate names thrive. The spirit of teamwork is summed up in a proverb from Kenya, whose team have been at the Sevens since 2003 - 'Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable'. Robby Nimmo asked some business bigwigs about the teamwork parallels between rugby and the business world

Peter Spizzirri
Head of Operations
Holman Fenwick Willan

When I joined Holman Fenwick Willan four years ago, the firm already had a sporting tradition as our London office had been sponsoring a UK invitational Sevens side, 'The Wailers'. Since then, Holman's in Hong Kong has become involved in many sporting events, such as sailing, cricket and of course, rugby. We are proud to host our first corporate box and will be joining the time-honoured Hong Kong tradition of combining rugby and business in the name of good fun. Keep an eye out for us in the pink and blue shirts.

I came to Hong Kong 12 years ago as the final stop of a post university rugby and travel experience. Almost immediately the line between rugby and business became blurred, and I was introduced to rugby's corporate community. It became commonplace to be tackling someone on a Tuesday night, and meeting with them for an interview the next day. Eventually, networking turned to opportunities, and I entered corporate life through the rugby door.

Working in an operations role, means the scope of my role is wide, and the rugby network has proven itself a far-reaching resource. Whenever I need a contact in another industry, I can be sure there is someone whom I've shared the pitch with, ready to help.

Interviewing prospective staff with a rugby background tells me a lot about who they are. Experience working in a team environment goes without saying, but it's the ability to shrug off the stresses of work, as they would a crunching tackle, which is truly invaluable.

A rugby player in a corporate environment is not easily intimidated, or afraid to forge a difficult path. A tough Monday is always relative to last Saturday's beating.

Andrew Hirst
Operations Director - Asia
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Teamwork, tenacity, networking, tactics . . . all are important qualities in business. The Sevens is also a hugely enjoyable event, and gives everyone the chance to relax and network in an informal environment. We have been involved with the Sevens for over 15 years, and will have representatives from all of our Hong Kong hotels plus our corporate office attending this time.

Because the Sevens takes place over a weekend, it allows us to really get to know a wide range of our customers and guests in a casual setting. Our suite also reflects the elegance and luxurious nature of our brand, and allows us to showcase existing hotels and facilities, plus any new properties that are opening - this summer we will open a hotel in Paris.

As we participate every year, it also serves to remind our guests of our long presence and association in Hong Kong (the Mandarin opened in 1963), and our renowned levels of service. Sport in general has many attributes that can be related to business. We always strive for excellence, recognise the importance of working as a team and keep a close eye on our competition - qualities that are also important on the rugby field.

Camille Jojo
Law firm Norton Rose Hong Kong

After years of attending many other boxes, it is a wonderful new dimension to host our own for the first time. One of the best business lessons I learnt through rugby is friendship. When I moved here in 1982, I took up social membership at the Hong Kong Football Club. Rugby formed the basis of a new social life. Playing the game fast tracked me as a newcomer to an instant social life on the weekend. I played for Cardiff University and Guildford and Goldaming's first team, but being part of a team here spearheaded trips around the world playing my favourite sport. I played for Hong Kong Football Club, captaining the Dragons in my last season in a first division side.

I remember competing in the finals of the Hong Kong Tens as part of the Neary All Stars. This was a selection of former British Lions players including Tony Neary, Sir Clive Woodward, Geoff Wheel, and Mickey Skinner. The people I have played rugby with over the years have remained close business colleagues and friends.

I have watched how the Sevens has grown despite the naysayers. There is a euphoria I feel when I walk through the gate. I am sure 40,000 people share that, as well as the sports management infrastructure. The event puts Hong Kong in the best light around the world, and although this is our first year hosting a box, we will combine watching some terrific rugby with networking and fun. We are pleased to see our name beside the likes of Cathay Pacific and Credit Suisse who have carried the torch for so long.

Benjamin Lai
Managing Director,
Modern Terminals Hong Kong

There are interesting similarities between the game of rugby and the shipping industry, which is why I believe we have had such a close affiliation with the sport over the years - this being the 10th anniversary of our association with the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens A successful supply chain is based on teamwork, strategy, speed, and execution and these are the same attributes that will be found in the teams who lift the championship trophies on Sunday afternoon.

Over the past decade Modern Terminals and its customers' have had the opportunity to witness some of the greatest Sevens matches in history. But no matter how competitive and hard fought those games have been, when the game is over, the opponents shake hands, the fans show their appreciation to both teams, and somewhere in the middle of the festivities we are all reminded about what sportsmanship should look like. If anyone can think of a better way to spend a long weekend in March I would like to hear about it.

Our customers, employees, and business associates all look forward to spending the weekend in what we call 'the Friendly Confines of Suite 23A.'

Osama Abbasi
Chief Executive
Asia Pacific, Credit Suisse

The fact that there are only seven players on each side puts teamwork, passion and total commitment at a premium. Yes, there is great individual flair and creativity, which is vital, but at the end of the day it's the team that can operate as a cohesive unit, with agility and good decision making over the course of the event that will be the winner. All this applies to our business, too.

Rugby isn't a sport I grew up with in the US and it's only since I arrived in Hong Kong that I have come to appreciate it as an outstanding game and spectacle. The Hong Kong Sevens has a unique atmosphere and I have the utmost respect for all the players as the skill and fitness levels are extraordinary.

Our clients also look for such teamwork and skill. They expect solutions, agility, speed of decision making and most of all, flawless execution from a committed team. There are clear parallels between sevens rugby and what Credit Suisse strives to be.

Rugby also mixes with business very easily. For 14 years, the Hong Kong Sevens has followed our Asian Investment Conference, the region's largest and most significant investment conference, which will be attended by over 2,000 investors and 270 corporates this year. They come for the conference but I know many of them stay for the rugby. For us, it's a perfect combination.

Craig Armstrong
Chief Information Officer, Wealth Management
Standard Chartered

We often draw analogies with sport or use the field of sporting endeavour as an example. The relevance to rugby comes lies in the way team work is important, leadership skills are demanded and each team member has a specific and important role to play. As with rugby, our team members come in all shapes and sizes and from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Rugby helps you settle into any city. You are warmly embraced when turning up for training, to coach or simply support any of the clubs. This is probably the case anywhere in the world. Interesting people and a genuine camaraderie are part of the game. This is also probably amplified by the international nature of Hong Kong.

There is another aspect to the inter-relationship of business and rugby. Our involvement with Operation Breakthrough and the HKRFU's grass roots development programmes in the local community are examples of how we try to live up to our brand promise of 'Here for Good'.

Giving something back to the community and taking the opportunity to make a difference is important to the bank and is valued by our staff.