China says no to rugby at Tianjin East Asian Games
The Chinese National Olympic Committee has turned down a request by the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) to include sevens in next year's East Asian Games in Tianjin.
Top ARFU officials, vice-president Trevor Gregory and secretary-general Ross Mitchell, presented rugby's case for inclusion at the multi-sports games to senior Chinese Olympic officials on the sidelines of this week's Olympic Council of Asia General Assembly in Macau.
"We were told there was no room for inclusion of sevens. It is very disappointing as we had hoped sevens could continue to be a medal sport at the East Asian Games," said Gregory, who is also the chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.
Hong Kong, which hosted the last East Asian Games in 2009, included sevens. But mainland officials said the programme for Tianjin was full with 22 sports to be featured. Nine countries will take part.
"We cannot understand China. On the one hand they find it difficult to field their best team in international sevens competitions because their PLA players are not allowed permission to go overseas, and yet when they host an international event which will feature all the top Asian countries in rugby, they turn down the chance," said Mitchell.
It is believed the reason for turning down rugby's request was simply down to money.
"If the International Rugby Board had stepped forward and said they would fund the whole tournament, then I'm sure the Chinese would have been happy to include sevens. But the IRB has already said they don't have the budget for this," Mitchell added.
At the 2009 Games, the HKRFU paid for the entire cost of staging the rugby competition for men and women at the Hong Kong Stadium.
It was an unqualified success with the Hong Kong men winning silver and women bronze.