Hong Kong Sevens organisers are planning to allocate tickets for next year's event by lottery in a further bid to reduce the influence of ticket touts.
The move comes after the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) came under fire when only 4,000 tickets were made available for the general public this year - down from 5,000 last year. They went on sale last month at www.cityline.com , with applicants having to verify a valid Hong Kong or Macau address and restricted to two tickets each.
But right from the kick-off, fans were unable to log on because of repeated crashes. This did not deter ticket scalpers, though. Within 15 minutes of the public tickets going on sale, weekend tickets costing HK$1,500 were already being advertised on the Asia Xpat website for HK$6,000.
The move to a lottery system would make applying for a ticket more convenient and deter touts, claimed a union spokesman. 'There'd be no need to have to go online, while it'll combat touting and scalping,' he said. 'Instead of a website getting flooded by touts, it is the luck of the draw.
'We're looking at this move very closely, but we won't make anything official until after the event.'
He said the system would also show more clearly exactly how many people want tickets and help support the union's push for a bigger, 50,000-seat stadium - 10,000 more than the current venue, Hong Kong Stadium, at So Kon Po, near Causeway Bay.
'We've become a victim of our own success. The bottom line is that the tournament is outstripping the demand,' the union spokesman said. 'Some fans will end up not getting a ticket for this reason. But if we had a bigger stadium, ticketing would be a non-issue.'
There was positive news on the situation from the Home Affairs Bureau. It confirmed on Friday that preparatory work was under way for a sports complex at Kai Tak with a multipurpose 50,000-seat stadium, a 5,000-seat public sports ground and an indoor sports centre. 'We are conducting a consultancy study to explore the most suitable procurement and financing arrangements for the project, and the current timetable is to begin construction of the project in 2014 for completion in 2018-19,' a bureau spokeswoman said.
In an effort to clarify the ticketing situation for next month's Sevens once and for all, the union issued a breakdown of the figures.
Local rugby clubs and the local community get 45 per cent; 14 per cent go to international sales; official sponsors and HKRFU patrons get 18 per cent; Rugby Union Club members get 5 per cent; stakeholders get 2 per cent; the International Rugby Board and participating teams get 3 per cent; stadium suite sales get 3 per cent; and public sales account for a further 10 per cent.
'It beggars belief, but the corporates have had to share the suffering, and the breakdown that we have provided shows this,' said union chairman Trevor Gregory. 'Different companies get different allocations. But the figures show that 83 per cent of the tickets are sold locally [in some shape or form].'
Tickets to the March 23-25 showpiece have gone up by this much in 2012 - to HK$1,500