Off-site venue to get rugby fans in the zone

Six days of music, sports and entertainment for 30,000 people who miss out on Sevens tickets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 3:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 3:32am

An extra 30,000 people will be able to follow the action at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens next month at the first Hong Kong FanZone in Central.

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union will set up the first dedicated off-site venue for fans, who will be able to watch the action unfold at Hong Kong Stadium and enjoy top-class entertainment from Cantonese and international music stars.

The six-day music, sports and cultural event from March 25 to 30 will be fully underwritten by the union but will be organised with the help of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

"Everyone knows that the stadium is at full capacity every year. There are lots of demographics that cannot get access to the stadium and this is an opportunity to make rugby accessible to large numbers of people for the entire week," said Antony Phillips, the union's head of events and sponsorship.

"We wanted to capitalise on the interest that surrounds the world's most famous rugby sevens event and create something that can benefit the whole of Hong Kong," Phillips said.

"This goes far beyond rugby. The Hong Kong FanZone will build on the natural growth of rugby week and will have activities to suit all, irrespective of their age or knowledge of the game."

A survey carried out by the Tourism Board during the 2011 tournament revealed that there was a direct economic benefit of HK$282 million to the city from the Hong Kong Sevens, mainly due to the thousands of overseas visitors.

But with restrictions on the number of fans at Hong Kong Stadium, which has a capacity of 40,000, significant growth hasn't been possible in recent years.

The FanZone at the new Central harbourfront, a government-owned plot of land to the east of the Star Ferry pier, will offer more fans the chance to interact with the players.

With the land being made available to the union only at the last minute, Phillips said there was insufficient time to apply for funding from the government's Mega Events Fund, which had indicated that it "would be happy for us to apply" in future years.

"The initiative is a key element of the HKRFU's community outreach programme. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the spectacle and excitement that comes with the Hong Kong Sevens, irrespective of whether you are at the stadium or not," Phillips said. "It's about creating entertainment with broad appeal and making it accessible to everyone."

Organisers will provide a range of daytime activities - including live telecasts of the action from Hong Kong Stadium, visits from star players and a funfair - before it is transformed into a live music venue at night.

"There will be a ticket price for the concerts in the evening, but 80 per cent of the site is free entry the whole time," Phillips said. "This is the first time we are doing something like this and it is mainly because of the space restrictions we face."