Hong Kong Sevens

Union's Sevens cut gives the game away

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2012, 12:00am

Save any tears you might want to shed for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, whose organisers have cut the number of public tickets available for one of the 'world's 10 best sporting events' (as a letter writer to this newspaper called it). By what measure does Sevens qualify for this honour, in a world graced with soccer, cricket and rugby world cups, the Olympics, athletics, Open golf and tennis in Britain and the US and Australia? To name but a few.

For starters, the Sevens is not even a full game. It is to rugby what Twenty20 is to test cricket. Most usefully, it is merely a form of practice for half of the real game, which is played for 40 merciless minutes each way.

Real rugby is a symphony, a ferocious struggle for possession of the ball and the artistry of those who are challenged to do something with it. It's probably the best spectator sport since Roman times.

Sevens, by comparison, is an advertising jingle urging you to buy something you don't need at an outrageous price that bears no relation to the costs of its production. No wonder the Sevens is beloved by those involved in the marketing game, people who have made careers out of hype.

That's why the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union probably did not have to think too long about cutting 1,000 tickets from the 5,000 available for sale last year. This means, even more than before, the Sevens tournament will favour the corporate-sponsored crowd, as the game's more loyal supporters are pushed to the back of the queue.

You may wish to disagree with me that the Hong Kong Sevens tournament is a pretext for unedifying displays of neo-colonial, expat behaviour in a former corner of the British empire. But one of the world's best sporting events it most definitely is not.

Even this city's own rugby union concedes the point by signalling its priorities when limiting public participation by spectators in the most cynical possible way.