Hong Kong ‘shines as Wimbledon of sevens’
City’s innovative tournament is role model for others to follow, says World Rugby chief as sponsor HSBC announces report into game
Hong Kong was on Friday described as the "Wimbledon" of rugby sevens as the governing body prepared to launch this season's World Series in Dubai and key sponsor HSBC announced the forthcoming publication of a major report charting the game's incredible growth and the challenges ahead.
Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, said the 2015-16 series was the most important in the sport's history, culminating in sevens' debut at the Olympics where success was fundamental to the game's global prospects.
He also praised Hong Kong's role in helping to popularise the sport, with the Hong Kong Sevens being the envy and role model for other tournaments around the world.
"Obviously, Hong Kong, without a doubt, is the pre-eminent tournament in the sevens series," said Gosper.
"For historic reasons, the Hong Kong Sevens is seen as the best and is the one we use to compare other tournaments.
"Hong Kong to us is the Wimbledon of sevens rugby. It's innovative and a great tournament. The players love going there, the fans love it, it has played a hugely important role in the past and will continue to do so in the future."
The Hong Kong Sevens was launched in 1976 and for most of its years, HSBC has been a close and loyal partner.
As the prime financial force behind the World Sevens Series, it has teamed up with leading strategic planning consultancy, The Futures Company, to produce its "Breaking New Ground" report, a detailed look at rugby's evolution and growth, based on interviews with leading industry experts.
The report, which will be published in full next month, will highlight how the acceptance of rugby into the Olympic fold in 2009 had been a "game-changer", prompting an explosion in the sport's popularity.
Global participation in rugby has doubled in the past decade with 7.2 million active players around the world. In addition, women's rugby has grown from 200,000 to 1.7 million players in the past three years, with the United States leading the way.
The report will state that sevens rugby had helped to open up new markets with the sport's inclusion in a number of multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Pan-American Games and Youth Olympic Games.
However, the report will also highlight serious challenges, said Giles Morgan, HSBC's global head of sponsorship.
"Because we are independent and not part of rugby, we are an investor in sport," he said. "We look at the potential for growth and highlight what the challenges are. Just because it's in the Olympics it's not a slam dunk.
"Certainly there is great potential but we, as an independent entity, can present to stakeholders what the challenges are, create debate and suggest the correct action to take and set an agenda to move forward on.
"Sport can run risks if it doesn't look at the bigger picture. Every business faces opportunities and challenges and we want to do what we can in a fair and equitable way to highlight the opportunities. If action is not taken, participation is not always guaranteed," said Morgan.