PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 5:43am

Ticket prices for the Sevens may seem exorbitant but profits are ploughed straight back into the rugby community

Ticket prices for the Sevens may seem exorbitant but profits are ploughed straight back into the rugby community


Alvin Sallay was a Sunday columnist with the paper for more than 10 years and reported on the Hong Kong sports scene for the last 25 years. Through his columns he covered four Olympic Games and one soccer World Cup. A long-time Asia expert, he has also been to seven consecutive Asian Games.

If you need any more assurances that the Hong Kong Sevens is a money spinner, just take a look at the balance sheet of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, which proudly declares that almost HK$103 million has been allocated to its facilities fund.

This is the first time this fund - the engine room that fuels the growth of the game - has topped the HK$100 million mark. This is because the showpiece sevens tournament of the International Rugby Board is a roaring success, a must-be-seen-at event which has been a sell-out for the past decade or so. The facilities fund is also proof that the HKRFU is not sitting on its pile of reserves like an incubating hen, unlike those misers at the Mega Events Fund who are protecting a HK$200 million kitty without disbursing it to needy sporting events.

From just over HK$6,000 to show in profit from the first Sevens in 1976, the HKRFU now has HK$273 million in net assets. That's a fantastic achievement considering it surpassed HK$200 million only in 2011. When one takes into account that the HKRFU also spends lavishly on providing facilities, kudos to the Union for its financial housekeeping.

Every time there is an increase in prices, there is bound to be criticism. But when that time comes, bear in mind it is all for a good cause

It would be easy to squirrel away the surplus for a rainy day. But by allocating HK$103 million to facilities, the HKRFU has shown its progressive nature. Elsewhere in today's newspaper, we report on plans to invest in improving and providing rugby facilities at local and international schools - a masterstroke as it will not only mean new grounds for the game, but also tap into young talent among the Chinese community.

King George V School in Ho Man Tin will be the first beneficiary of this scheme and work has already begun on an artificial pitch at an estimated cost of HK$10 million. South Island School is next. But what is interesting is that two or three Chinese schools have also shown interest. The ESF schools have traditionally been a cradle for the game but by going into the local schools the HKRFU will score hugely, for it is there that the real future of the game lies.

With the Hong Kong Sports Institute now having taken on board sevens as an elite sport, it opens an avenue for local students to pursue a rugby career full-time. Most ESF students are lost to the system after secondary education, as they go overseas for university. In future, it will be those children staying at home who will be tempted to put on hold their tertiary education and chase the sporting dream.

All this boils down to the success of the Sevens. It is because of the riches it offers that the HKRFU is able to boldly take steps that no other sporting association can even dare dream of. Can any other governing body plough millions of dollars into building infrastructure? The HKRFU's home for rugby, King's Park, is envied by all. The three artificial pitches are used primarily for rugby, but other sports like soccer and softball also benefit. Built at enormous cost, these facilities need to be maintained. An that costs money.

A new pitch at Tin Shui Wai was built at a cost of HK$15 million last season. Apart from the schools scheme, there are also plans to acquire more facilities in places like Discovery Bay, Sha Tin and Sai Kung.

The need for more grounds is insatiable because of rising demand. Next season, there are fears that the league competition on a Saturday will not be able to accommodate 35 games due to ground restrictions.

It is an ever-present challenge, but the HKRFU is meeting it head-on, thanks to its financial clout.

This is how your money spent on buying a ticket for the Sevens is utilised, so don't begrudge the HKRFU. And the good news is that prices will not increase next year, with an adult ticket remaining at HK$1,500. But be warned: by sticking to the same prices it is inevitable that in 2015 tickets will cost a whole lot more.

The last time there was an increase, in 2012, ticket prices rose 20 per cent. A similar boost will see a ticket costing HK$1,800 in 2015. Every time there is an increase in prices, there is bound to be criticism. But when that time comes, bear in mind it is all for a good cause, which is providing facilities to the growing rugby population. At the end of the day, the local community benefits.


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