Union loses $4m from ticket refunds
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union lost HK$4 million from refunding the cost of tickets of fans who stayed away from this year's Credit Suisse First Boston Hong Kong Sevens due to the Sars outbreak. But it is believed that the tournament - won by England - still made a tidy profit.
The HKRFU has revealed that just over 5,000 tickets were returned and had been refunded. Most of the ticket-holders were believed to be from Hong Kong as a majority of the tickets were handed in personally.
'It is a lot of money and a big sum to lose. But by the same token, we are pleased that we gave people the option to make the choice of whether to attend the Sevens or not,' said Allan Payne, HKRFU executive director.
The last-minute cancellation of the Rolling Stones concert in Hong Kong on March 27 because of the pneumonia outbreak led to fears the Hong Kong Sevens would follow suit. But after a prolonged meeting between organisers and IRB officials, it was decided to go ahead, with fans being given the option to refund their tickets if they did not wish to attend the March 28-30 event.
In a bid to absorb some of the financial loss, the International Rugby Board said they would reduce the franchise fee which the local governing body has to pay for the Hong Kong Sevens being part of the IRB Sevens circuit. 'They have very kindly said that they will reduce the fees. While it is not a huge sum, it will still make a reasonable amount of difference,' said HKRFU chairman John Molloy.
'The profits from the Hong Kong Sevens are mostly channelled into a reserve fund and also towards the development programme. It is believed the $4 million loss won't have much of an impact on the programme. Undoubtedly we will have to be more careful on what we spend. But I hope we won't have to change any of our plans and that it won't affect our development programme in any way.'
Meanwhile, the IRB has announced that the Singapore leg of the IRB Sevens has been cancelled, with the governing body unable to meet the request of the organising committee to reschedule the tournament. 'The majority of the teams have expressed serious reservations about travelling to the South East Asian region due to the increasing concerns over the spread of the Sars virus,' said Mark Egan, IRB Sevens manager.
The Singapore Sevens is the fourth event in this year's circuit to be cancelled. Chile, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur were cancelled earlier. Only the Cardiff and Twickenham legs of the series remain. New Zealand currently lead the standings with 92 points followed by England (76) and Fiji (74).
In other news, South Africa won the IRB Under-19 World Championship in Paris with a tense 22-18 win over New Zealand in the First Division final.
Hong Kong, meanwhile, finished 31st out of 32 with the battle for the wooden spoon against Ivory Coast being cancelled when the African team forfeited the match after a number of their players went missing and were reported as having claimed asylum.
The strange ending meant Hong Kong's debut appearance at the junior World Championship finished on a barren note. The SAR had lost to Uruguay (47-0), Ukraine (54-0) and the United States (25-10) to finish bottom of the Second Division.
Japan were the top Asian side, finishing ninth after beating Georgia 28-20 in the play-off. South Korea claimed 13th spot with a 21-5 victory over Namibia. Both Japan and South Korea will gain automatic berths for next year's tournament while Hong Kong will have to qualify once again.