China factor enough to lure Hong Kong volleyball fans to women’s Nations League, say organisers
Despite the new-look tournament being played on weekdays only, crowds are expected to flock to the Coliseum to watch world-class teams
The inaugural women’s Nations League in Hong Kong will be as popular as its previous versions despite doing away with weekend games, with organisers saying fans are lured by a strong field led by Olympic champions China.
Only midweek matches will be held in the tournament starting on May 29 (Tuesday to Thursday) with the mainland giants joined in the field by world-class teams from Japan, Italy and Argentina. Previous tournaments, when it was called the women’s World Grand Prix, were played on weekends and last year tickets at the 12,000-seater Coliseum in Hung Hom were snapped up in one day.
“This is an experiment by FIVB as they want to give to the better weekend time slot to the men’s volleyball,” said Hong Kong Volleyball Association president Wilfred Ng Sau-kei. “But given the new format of the tournament, in which each team will meet only once before qualifying for the final, fans will still be eager to watch top-class volleyball from these teams.
“This is especially so with China, who have a big fanbase in Hong Kong. Maybe the tickets will not be gone as quick as before, but we are still confident to see a great turnout at the Coliseum given the class of the teams.”
Daily tickets are priced at HK$650, HK$350 and HK$120 and will be available from April 11 at Urbtix outlets. Japan take on Italy and China will meet Argentina on opening night.
A total of 16 teams will be competing in the 2018 league, with 12 teams part of a core group who do not have to worry about relegation. The four remaining teams, including Argentina, face relegation if they fail to perform.
The teams are divided into four pools and each week they play in a round-robin tournament. The top five teams after five weeks will join hosts China in the final round in Nanjing starting from June 27.
China, gold medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games champions, are ranked number one in the world while Japan, runners-up at the 2012 London Olympics, are sixth – one place ahead of Italy. In the 2017 finale, Italy beat China for a spot in the semi-finals.