Asian Super Rugby franchise ‘a bridge too far’
Trevor Gregory pours cold water on franchise for continent and rules out any bid from Hong Kong
Asia is not ready to host a Super Rugby franchise - and it certainly wouldn't be Hong Kong - the head of the Asian Rugby Football Union said, adding that no union or sponsor was in a position to underwrite the US$100 million five-year cost of hosting the southern hemisphere competition's 18th team.
Arfu president Trevor Gregory, who also chairs the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, ruled out Hong Kong bidding to join the competition, which is run by South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and announced plans this month to expand to 18 teams.
With an extra South African side joining the competition and a new franchise in Argentina from 2016, Asia was heavily tipped to take the final spot.
"Can you imagine a union having any liability for a five-year contract that could have a US$100 million price tag on it? That would bankrupt any union," Gregory said.
"I'm stepping down as chairman of Hong Kong in a couple of months; I wouldn't think that the new board have an appetite to risk the hard-earned money that has taken us 60 years to accumulate on a long shot, which is clearly what it is for us right now.
"The whole concept of getting a franchise up for the next five years, I don't want to pour cold water on it, I really feel it's a bridge too far," he said.
HKRFU chief executive Vern Reid, formally with Super Rugby side Western Force, said the Perth-based side travelled 68,000 kilometres to play in the competition last year and that the last Super Rugby expansion side, the Melbourne Rebels who joined in 2011, spent close to US$20.28 million in their first season.
"We have had a look at it and knowing the costs, we are not ready to do that," Reid said.
"We would be better to invest that money in the development of our own players and our own game, so that if another opportunity did arise in the future we would be better placed."
Singapore has not ruled out a bid, with help from outside partners, but Gregory questioned whether Japan, aiming for a seventh Asian Five Nations championship title against Hong Kong on Sunday, was interested.
The Japanese Top League "is sacrosanct" he said, adding: "They are not going to disrupt their league because that is the jewel in the crown of their domestic rugby."