HKRFU to offer plan to cut the HK$7m cost of hiring Hong Kong Stadium

The government will listen to organisers in their bid to reduce the HK$7m charge for using Hong Kong Stadium at next month's Sevens

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 5:09am

A top official says the government is willing to listen to a cost-cutting plan by rugby bosses outraged at the HK$7 million charge for hiring Hong Kong Stadium for next month's Sevens showpiece.

Home Affairs Bureau deputy secretary Jonathan McKinley revealed the government was willing to look at ways to reduce the cost of hiring the So Kon Po stadium for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union will have to pay nearly HK$7 million - a percentage of the ticket and retail sales - to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department as the cost for hiring the venue for the Sevens from March 22-24.

"We advised the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union that if they were to come up with an alternative proposal we would be glad to discuss this," McKinley said.

The HKRFU has accepted the invitation and will soon put forward their suggestion as to how much they should pay to host the annual tournament, which is a major drawcard for local and overseas fans. Next month's event was sold out this month when the final 4,000 public tickets were snapped up in an over-subscribed ballot.

"We are very grateful for the government for asking us to come to the table. We appreciate this offer and will be putting forward our views shortly," said Union chairman Trevor Gregory.

The daily cost of hiring the stadium is a flat rate of HK$150,000 or a percentage of ticket sales, whichever is higher. Rugby officials have criticised this method, saying it is unacceptable.

"The stadium charges 20 per cent on the first HK$4 million of ticket sales, then 17.5 per cent and 15 per cent on the next HK$4 million and the remainder respectively," McKinley said. "The HKRFU has publicly expressed outrage at this level of charges. We have asked them to put forward [what they think is a fair] proposal."

On the current scheme, if the 40,000-seater stadium is sold out at an average cost of HK$1,500 per ticket - corporate boxes cost a lot more - the HKRFU can expect revenue of between HK$50 million and HK$60 million from ticket sales alone.

"But on top of having to pay a percentage on ticket sales, we also have to cough up a share of whatever else is sold at the stadium, including merchandise and apparel. At the end of the day we pay a sizeable sum to the government," Gregory said. "Even when we hosted the two Bledisloe Cup games between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, we had to stick to the same scheme. We asked for a change and were refused. Hopefully, now we can get a better deal."

The HKRFU is the only sports body that regularly fills out the stadium. The other main hirer is the Hong Kong Football Association but it is rare for a football game to be played in front of capacity crowds unless an overseas team are playing. This week's Lunar New Year Cup featuring three club teams from Asia drew a paltry 4,000 paying fans each day.