With millions of dollars in profits from the Hong Kong Sevens, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union is reaching out to local and international schools, offering to invest in improving and maintaining their sports facilities.
In return, the schools would allow the union use of the grounds, creating a tailor-made platform to further push the game in the community.
One of the first schools identified has been King George V School in Kowloon Tong, which already has a strong rugby pedigree. But the union is also talking to Wah Yan College, which has sites across Hong Kong, with an eye on building a new rugby facility close to King's Park in Ho Man Tin, as well as other local schools in Sai Kung, Sha Tin, Discovery Bay and Hong Kong Island.
"Apart from ESF schools [which already play rugby], we want to reach out to local schools and get them involved in rugby to create a strong rugby culture," said union director of facilities Anson Bailey. "We have offered to invest in improving their sports facilities in return for an 'emphasis on rugby' in their sports curriculum and also some access for community rugby."
A sum of HK$25 million from the profits of this year's Hong Kong Sevens was transferred to the union's facilities fund, which now totals HK$103 million.
"The union is fully committed to supporting our growing rugby community, but it is a continuous battle for rugby facilities in Hong Kong," Bailey said. At last week's annual general meeting, the union revealed its total net assets amounted to HK$273 million, of which HK$103 million had been allocated to providing facilities for the mushrooming rugby population, especially its mini-rugby clubs and youth and tertiary programmes.
Of this sum, HK$30 million has been committed to ongoing projects, around five, with the KGV sports ground redevelopment the major one.
"Work has started on upgrading the facilities at KGV where we will be installing a new artificial pitch and HK$10 million has been committed to this. We will also commence work at South Island School," Bailey said. "There is a huge demand for facilities and we are also talking closely to three local schools and hope to reach a successful outcome over the next two to three months," he said.
To accommodate its growing leagues, the union relies mostly on 13 rugby pitches provided by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - eight of them at Happy Valley - as well as its home for rugby at King's Park (three pitches), the Hong Kong Football Club and Police Boundary Street in Mong Kok.
A new standalone pitch at Tin Shui Wai built at a cost of HK$15 million has been completed. The local district council approved this project and the union wants to use this as the template for New Territories projects.
But the ever increasing demands have put pressure on the union to unearth more facilities. Head of rugby operations Robbie McRobbie said next season it would struggle to fulfil its Saturday league commitments due to the increase in clubs.