Union chiefs determined to safeguard HK Sevens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 April, 1999, 12:00am

Senior Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) officials Peter Duncan and Allan Payne will fly to Argentina later this month seeking guarantees from the International Rugby Board (IRB) over the financial security of the Hong Kong Sevens.

The IRB will host its annual council meeting in mid-April in Buenos Aires and one of the main topics of discussion will be the new World Sevens Grand Prix circuit.

Hong Kong has indicated that it will join the circuit, but wants assurances from the IRB that the HKRFU will not lose out financially.

They will also press their claims for the Hong Kong Sevens to host the 'Grand Final' in the eight or 10-stop world series.

'We would want guarantees from the IRB that we will not lose out by joining the new circuit,' said Payne, HKRFU executive director.

IRB chief executive Stephen Baines, who was a guest of honour at last weekend's Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens, said tournaments included in the proposed circuit would lose their broadcasting rights which would all come under the IRB umbrella.

Television and broadcasting rights is one of the main revenue-earners for the the Hong Kong Sevens.

'But we will make a commitment to Hong Kong that joining the new circuit will add value and not detract anything from it. The Hong Kong Sevens won't be any worse off,' said Baines.

However, Duncan was pessimistic. He said the Hong Kong Sevens could lose out by joining the circuit.

'There are a number of issues here . . . we will lose the direct broadcasting rights, a title sponsor for the new circuit could have an impact on our sponsors and there may be a clash with the licensing.

'We will ask the IRB to underwrite any potential short-fall in income. This is an option,' said Duncan.

Payne added: 'We are very concerned. There is an upside and a downside to joining the circuit. We are also worried certain aspects will not be under our control any more.' Although the full-house sign did not go up, last weekend's tournament was deemed a financial success by the HKRFU.

Figures are still being added up. But HKRFU commercial manager Dave Roberts said the tournament's profit numbers would match that of last year.

It is believed that the Hong Kong Sevens made a profit of around HK$9 million in 1998.