HKRFU must get the right person as chairman
Trevor Gregory's position at the head of the rugby union will be hard to fill, but that shouldn't stop anyone from trying
Is there life after Trevor Gregory? This question has caused something of a storm in a teacup behind the scenes as the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union gets ready to elect his successor next month.
Gregory has been chairman of the union for the past eight years. His reign is widely acknowledged as being a success. If Hong Kong are ranked 23rd, their highest yet in world rugby, and if the national sevens team are now an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute - the only team sport there - then surely things are going right.
This is the popular view and, most importantly, the view held by those that matter - the sponsors of rugby.
One such sponsor raised the question of Gregory's successor to HKRFU chief executive Vern Reid at a function some months ago. The name of Pieter Schats, former Hong Kong captain, came up in the conversation.
This was overheard by longtime rugby stalwart Anthony Desir who was sitting at another table and who interpreted it as the HKRFU throwing its support behind Schats. Desir believes this would be unfair and going against the grain of a democratic process.
According to Desir, if the union came out and backed Schats, it would make it difficult for any other challenger to run for the top position. Desir believes Schats is a suitable candidate for the position of chairman, but he felt the democratic process might have been compromised if the union were seen to be overtly supporting Schats.
Gregory does not hide his support for Schats, but he laughed at the suggestion his backing would have any effect on the election process. July 24 is when the AGM is held and his successor picked.
With 56 votes counting, a simple majority is all that is needed if the process goes down to a poll.
So far, there has been no challenger to Schats. At one point it was thought Anson Bailey, a director of the union, would run, but it seems he has changed his mind.
Desir felt this underlined his point, that anyone wanting to run for the job would feel intimidated by the HKRFU's perceived backing of Schats. Is it a storm in a teacup? Yes.
So what if the HKRFU has thrown its support behind Schats? Most appear to agree he is the right person for the job; even Desir admits this.
Schats comes armed with plenty of experience of how the union works. He was a director of finance on the board as well as chief executive. He has captained Hong Kong both at sevens and 15s, and is fully committed to the game.
And most importantly he is willing to give the time commitment. The chairman is no longer just a figurehead, and despite the HKRFU being one of the most-staffed sporting bodies in town, the top job demands a lot from the incumbent.
This is not to say any other person would not devote themselves fully to the job, but right now Schats has said that he will give a 100 per cent of his commitment to help run the multimillion-dollar enterprise that is the HKRFU.
The democratic process might not always throw up the right person for the job. It is better if a person is vetted and deemed a suitable successor to Gregory.
But Desir's gripe is that the establishment, read the Hong Kong Football Club, is working behind the scenes to maintain its power. He is wrong. Gregory's heart lies with DeA. Schats played for Valley in his prime and even though he is a Football Club member, I would think he still thinks of himself as a Valley man.
Club connections and parochial party links surely will be put aside by anyone worth his salt and who has pretentions to the top job. At the end of the day, what matters is Hong Kong rugby as a whole. This has been the mantra over the years.
Gregory has every right to pick his successor. As he says, "I can pick someone to take over from me, but the fundamental principle is that it will be our members who decide who the next chairman will be. I think our members are fully capable of making up their minds."
Desir disagrees. He says this overt support prevents others from raising their hands for the job. I say the democratic process can equally throw up a monster or a mastermind.
If everyone is agreed that Schats is the right person, then go for it. Unless we know the quality of the challengers, a planned succession is good.