Singapore may pounce on sports hub delay
Hong Kong ran the risk of being left behind by Singapore if it rested on its laurels, Trevor Gregory, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU), said, highlighting an urgent need to build the Kai Tak sports hub.
'Right now, we are out there in front having the best sevens tournament in the world and hosting some of the biggest rugby games,' Gregory (pictured) said.
'But we cannot be complacent and rest on our laurels [because] once the Singapore Sports Hub is built, it can pose a serious threat.'
Gregory is worried about the time frames involved. The Singapore Sports Hub will be completed by March, 2014 while the Kai Tak venues will not be ready before 2019 - a five-year gap that, in sports and marketing terms, yawns as wide as the Grand Canyon.
'Once they get a top-class stadium up-and-running, and managed by a major group, they will bring a degree of competition that we haven't had in recent years. They will be able to host major events,' Gregory said.
The Hong Kong Sevens has been the jewel in the crown of the HSBC World Sevens Series. But with HSBC a partner in the private consortium that will build, operate and then transfer - after 25 years - the Singapore Sports Hub to the government, there is a real possibility that the Lion City will once again become a stopover in the International Rugby Board's (IRB) sevens series.
Hong Kong has also staged two Bledisloe Cup events - in 2008 and 2010 - and will host the British and Irish Lions in 2013. The Lions will stop over on their way to Australia to play a game against the Barbarians.
Gregory feels the HKRFU won't have it so easy once the Singapore venue comes on line.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong have expressed interest in hosting a few games of the 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan, and in this respect, Singapore is at a clear advantage because they will have the venue ready by then.
With an estimated completion date of 2019 for Kai Tak, local rugby officials are on the back foot, knowing it will take a lot of convincing the IRB and Japan to give them games.
'It is a worry that we will have a large and modern sporting facility on our doorstep,' Gregory said.
'At the moment we are the first choice but I can see in the future when we will have to compete against Singapore to host big events. And the worst thing is that we haven't even started [to build] yet.
'But there is nothing much we can do until the government formalises the process and tells us how it [the Kai Tak sports hub] will be built and when it will be built. We have to wait for that process to start and until then there is not much we can do,' Gregory added.
The estimated cost in Hong Kong dollars of the Kai Tak sports hub, which will include a 50,000-plus capacity stadium