Hong Kong has a role to play in the development of rugby in China, says union boss Vern Reid
Alisports’ US$100 million investment boosts the games standing in the country and training coaches and referees is one way for the HKRU to get involved
Using its expertise and established infrastructure to train coaches and referees could be one way for the Hong Kong Rugby Union to play a role in the development of rugby in China, according to chief executive Vern Reid.
In a deal announced by World Rugby on Wednesday, Alibaba’s sports division, Alisports, is to invest US$100 million into rugby in the country in the next decade.
While Reid admits it is only early days, he is confident Hong Kong has a role to play and can also benefit from the investment.
“There is not a specific role for Hong Kong rugby in this programme but we’re hoping that we may get a role in the future,” Reid said.
“Even if we are able to provide a service training referees, match officials and coaches, then that may well be an opportunity for us to develop.
“It would be very easy for us to put in place a programme that produced coaches and match officials for China rugby where their people could come into our system and then we could be part of all of that.”
The plan includes the launch of China’s first professional men’s and women’s leagues, as well as national sevens programmes and a mass participation initiative within schools and universities targeting one million new players in five years.
While Alisports is making no direct investment into rugby in Hong Kong, Reid believes the HKRU’s long-standing relationship with China rugby will work in its favour.
“We are engaged on the periphery, we are very positive about the programme and we’d be keen to get involved in it at some time in the future,” Reid said.
“We’re ultimately positive that one way or another over the period of this 10-year programme that Hong Kong rugby will have a position and a profile in it.
“We are still waiting to see what the Alibaba investment will do in terms of what sort of competition might evolve, where competitions and training bases are going to be established, all that stuff is detail that we are still waiting to see.”
One definite area Hong Kong stands to benefit in the long-term is in an on-field sense, with the improvement of the China 15s and sevens teams set to offer Hong Kong sides greater access to high-level opposition.
Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.