SENTIMENTAL favourites, BBC, have lost their exclusive rights to televise the Hong Kong Sevens. The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) and the Sevens organising committee have decided that in the long-term interests of the world's premier sevens tournament a change was necessary - especially in areas of distribution and quality of production. An official announcement will be made today. But it is known that BBC Enterprises have lost out and will make way for international sports marketing giant IMG and their television arm, Trans World International (TWI). The new contract will take in the 1996, 1998 and 1999 Hong Kong Sevens: 1997 did not fall into consideration as in that year, the Hong Kong Sevens will make way for the second Rugby Sevens World Cup. The change in international broadcasters, however, will not affect the Hong Kong public who will still be able to see the popular event live on local television. 'That was one of the clauses. It was very high up on the Union's priority that the Hong Kong public would not miss out in the new deal,' said Dave Roberts, the chief executive officer of the HKRFU. The Union was mainly involved in the larger picture and sorting out the exclusive television rights. It would be left to the winner of the new contract to hammer out their own deal with the host broadcaster - which could either be TVB, ATV or STAR TV. 'The local coverage is very important to us and we have not lost sight of that fact. The winner of the new contract will have to work out their own deal with the host broadcasters,' said Roberts. BBC Enterprises had held exclusive broadcast and distribution rights to the Hong Kong Sevens since 1992 (taking over from TVB) with the host broadcaster being ATV. That contract expired with last month's Hong Kong Sevens, won by New Zealand. Realising that the Hong Kong Sevens had wide scope to be marketed on a more global scale, the Union decided to put up the television and distribution rights up for bidding for the first time. While BBC was desperately keen to keep a hold on the tournament - which apparently was the last major international sporting event in their control - they had faced serious competition from IMG/TWI and Communication Services International (CSI), an established European soccer broadcasting group. 'We wanted the best possible deal for the Union mainly in the areas of quality of production and distribution. We wanted it live, and in as many countries as possible,' said Roberts, who with members of the Sevens organising committee, listened to the three pitches last week.