Surface tension over turf state
A long-term solution to remedy a substandard pitch at Hong Kong Stadium is urgently needed if the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is to maintain its top-dog status, leading official Trevor Gregory has warned.
Gregory said the pitch needed to be replaced or improved drastically after the International Rugby Board and a number of teams complained about its state, with clumps of grass flying from the first game at last month's tournament.
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said last night it had received no negative feedback, despite Gregory (pictured) saying the union had voiced its concern. Nonetheless, the LCSD added it was carrying out turf improvement work on the pitch.
'We are constantly being challenged by tournaments around the world and it doesn't help the pitch at our main stadium is in such a sorry state. We were really struggling this time,' Gregory, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman, said.
'We have received numerous complaints from everyone involved, the IRB as well as teams, and they were all unhappy at the surface. As always, our tournament is being compared to others around the world and, as far as the pitch is concerned, it is letting us down.
'The IRB is in the process of sending us an official letter of complaint, which we will be passing on to the government.'
With the British and Irish Lions due to make a historic stopover on their way to Australia in June 2013, the HKRFU is worried that if no remedial work is done immediately on the So Kon Po pitch, it could make Hong Kong a laughing stock.
'We have lodged our concerns with the LCSD and pleaded with them to fix the pitch. We want it replaced or improved drastically, something that will last for a long time, instead of just a temporary solution,' Gregory said.
'The best solution , albeit it will take a longer time, would be for the government to start building a new stadium at Kai Tak. But until that happens, we have to make do with what we have, and right now what we have is not up to scratch.'
A LCSD spokesman said: 'The department is mindful of the need to upkeep the turf to a high standard, and has been striving to meet the needs of various sport activities. Before the Hong Kong Sevens, we invited the HKRFU to inspect the turf and provided them with data on turf performance. The union did not come back to us with any comments at that time.'
'During and after the Sevens, we did not receive any specific or adverse feedback on the turf condition from the HKRFU,' the spokesman added. 'Since the Sevens, we have been carrying out a series of turf improvement works, including aeration, top-dressing and sowing so as to resume the condition of the turf as soon as possible for events in April.'
Fears the pitch would not be able to cope have also forced the HKRFU to shelve plans to use the HSBC Asian Five Nations Top Five encounter between Japan and Hong Kong next year as the prelude to the Lions game.
Organisers of the Chartis Cup in June, between the BGC APBs (formerly the Asia-Pacific Barbarians) and top English side Saracens, also have plans for an opening game and asked the HKRFU for support.
'We have so many plans, but because of the pitch we cannot put them into practice,' Gregory said. 'We have dropped the move to play the Asian Five Nations game next year before the Lions match, while discussions are still going on as far as the Chartis Cup is concerned.'
When Hong Kong hosted the Bledisloe Cup between Australia and New Zealand in 2010, the referee was forced to reset the scrum time and again in a different place due to the sliding surface.
'We are facing a lot of competition from all over the world, not only in sevens but in 15s, too. Once the new Singapore [National] Stadium is ready, it will offer a fresh challenge. Last month, at the Hong Kong Sevens, we had 50 delegates from various parts of China, all keen to put on a sevens event. I'm confident we can hold our own, but to do this we need a stadium with a solid pitch,' Gregory said.
The year the Hong Kong Stadium opened following redevelopment of the old Government Stadium site