IRB official to assess HK World bid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 1993, 12:00am

HONG Kong could play a major role in keeping the fledgling Sevens World Cup alive when leading rugby official Keith Rowlands makes a flying visit to the territory this month.

Rowlands, the International Rugby Football Board secretary, will provide an influential voice when the body decides in October whether a second Sevens World Cup in 1997 is viable, following a moderately successful inaugural event in Scotland earlier this year.

And local rugby officials are hoping that their experience in organising the territory's own highly-profitable international Sevens will convince Rowlands a second tournament would be a success if Hong Kong were to host it.

Rowlands will arrive on August 31 and Union chairman Stuart Leckie said his visit is specifically to talk to local officials about Hong Kong's intentions for a 1997 Sevens World Cup.

''We are excited that Keith Rowlands will be in Hong Kong,'' said Leckie. ''I would hope that, because of our experience with the Hong Kong Sevens, we can convince them Hong Kong is the place to hold the next World Cup.

''It would be the first time that a world-class event was held outside the foundation rugby countries.

''Not only would it be good for Hong Kong but it would be good for Asia. We already have the support of the Asian Unions.

''We have two hopes - that the IRB decide to go ahead with the tournament and that it goes to Hong Kong.'' It will be Rowlands' second official visit to the territory. He was here in 1992 for the Hong Kong Sevens, which was held at the old stadium.

He will be taken to So Kon Po where the new 40,000-seater stadium is being constructed. It will be finished two weeks before the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens on March 26 and 27.

Only Hong Kong have expressed interest in hosting the second Sevens World Cup. Australia withdrew their claims earlier this year and are backing Hong Kong.

The IRB will take into account many variables in deciding whether another tournament is viable, including profitability, crowds and venue.

The Edinburgh, Scotland event at Murrayfield was held over three days and filled up only on the final day.

Leckie feels Hong Kong would be the perfect place to hold a major international event in 1997 as it is the year the territory reverts to Chinese rule.

There is even hope that China, who have recently been introduced to the sport, will be good enough in 1997 to qualify for such a tournament.

The Hong Kong Sevens is regarded as the world's leading tournament and its success prompted the IRB to stage an official world cup.

Scotland, being the birthplace of sevens, were given the inaugural tournament, though many felt Hong Kong deserved the honour for their efforts to promote the game worldwide.

England, who have annually refused invitations to the Hong Kong event, surprised everyone by winning the tournament in Edinburgh with a collection of second-string players.

IRB officials met days after the April event but put off a decision on its future until October.

The Sevens organising committee last night decided to continue talks with stadium managers Wembley International in their bid to win control of the 50 executive suites which will be put on the market next month to interested companies.

Wembley had proposed that the Union patrons, who have regularly hired boxes at the Sevens over the years, can sub-let the suites from those companies who have no interest in the tournament.

But the committee decided at their monthly meeting last night against accepting Wembley terms for the moment.

Union secretary Peter Else said: ''We will have to have further meetings with Wembley. No decision was made.''