Rugby chief sends out sevens SOS
Top Hong Kong Rugby Football Union official Trevor Gregory has sent out an SOS to the local rugby community, asking it to get behind the East Asian Games by purchasing a ticket for the two-day event in December.
Tickets for the rugby sevens competition - being played for the first time at the East Asian Games - went on sale three weeks ago and so far only a handful have been sold. Union chairman Gregory issued a desperate plea yesterday to member clubs to get behind the tournament.
'I believe we have sold only around 3,000 tickets. This is a far cry from the response we get for the Hong Kong Sevens and I hope those people who support us at our tournament will also strongly back us at the East Asian Games,' Gregory said.
He called on the local community to come out and support the Hong Kong teams - men and women - in their bid to win medals at the December 5-6 tournament to be played at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium.
'I hope we don't play in front of empty stands. If our team get the support they normally get at the Hong Kong Sevens, I believe we can not only win a medal, but a gold one at that,' Gregory said.
'We hope we can recreate the same party atmosphere we have every year at the Hong Kong Sevens. For this we need the wholehearted support of the local rugby community and the public, too.
Of the 22 medal sports at the Games, the union has one of the hardest tasks of selling tickets due to the capacity of the venue. Gregory said the union's targeted aim was to sell at least 25,000 tickets.
'We want at least 25,000 people turning up. That is the critical mass. Our tournament director, Allan Payne, is confident that he can get close to a full stadium and I hope he is right. But we need the backing of our long-time supporters to achieve this.'
The annual Hong Kong Sevens has been sold out for the past few years. Public ticket sales have been limited to about 5,000 in recent times - with tickets being sold out in a few hours - and the majority of tickets going to the union's member clubs, sponsors and box-holders.
Unlike the Hong Kong Sevens, where tickets this year were priced at HK$1,080 for an adult and HK$300 for a child, a ticket for the East Asian Games will cost HK$100. A child's ticket is HK$50.
'We are disappointed at the response so far. But this is typical Hong Kong. There is no big rush and as always people wait until the last minute before buying tickets. Hopefully this is the case here,' Gregory said.
In a bid to fill the stadium, the union will match the Hong Kong Jockey Club's plan to give away tickets to students free of charge for every sporting event at the Games. The Jockey Club will buy 5,200 tickets for the rugby competition and give them away under its student-subsidy scheme.
In April, the Jockey Club announced it would allocate HK$40 million for the Games. The club's sponsorship covers a volunteer programme, construction of a BMX cycling park and a subsidy scheme for student tickets.
'We will do something similar to what the Jockey Club is doing, which means we are assured of having about 10,000 school kids at the stadium on both days,' Gregory said.
'But we need a bigger crowd than that to make the event a huge success.'