Four-day Hong Kong Sevens? Union chief Pieter Schats says event could accommodate a leg of the women’s World Series
Hong Kong Rugby Union chairman says the city could accommodate another tournament during rugby week
Hong Kong is capable of hosting a four-day sevens festival encompassing four separate tournaments that would include two women’s events, said rugby chief Pieter Schats.
The past weekend featured three tournaments over three days; the main Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, which is part of the World Series; the men’s World Series Qualifier; and the women’s World Series Qualifier, for which the knockout rounds were played at the Hong Kong Stadium with the pool matches taking place at So Kon Po.
Schats, chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, said the potential is there for Hong Kong to add a leg of the women’s World Series to the scheduling.
“In an ideal world, if we can put it in and we have the stadium available and all the days that we need, personally – and the [union] board has not discussed this in much detail yet – I think we could accommodate both the women’s tournament and the qualifier for the women’s,” said Schats.
“And I think we can accommodate the men’s and the women’s too. That may mean starting on Thursday but let’s see.”
Hong Kong has been the default venue for the men’s qualifier over the past few years and global governing body, World Rugby, will soon start discussions on the scheduling for the next four-year cycle of the World Series, of which Hong Kong is the seventh stop this year.
On Saturday, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper said cities that could accommodate a leg of the women’s World Series would receive preference when it comes to choosing venues.
The success of the 2018 Hong Kong Sevens – despite some of the big teams fielding second-string squads as they prepare for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast – strengthens Hong Kong’s status as the number one sevens tournament on the circuit.
However, Schats said the union must continue to look for ways to improve the overall product to stay on top.
He said Hong Kong’s success goes beyond the three days of rugby at the Hong Kong Stadium. The entertainment and side attractions during the Sevens week also adds to the experience with the union announcing last week that, in 2017, there were more people active outside the stadium than the 120,000 who were inside the arena during the actual event.
“I think for Hong Kong to keep being the place to go to, we have to keep doing things a little different and maybe add to some parts of it,” he said. “One of the things we’ve done successfully is [the activities] in which last year for the first time we have more people active outside that stadium than inside.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get the venue in Central [Chater Gardens] but next year we are very confident we will be back and do a lot of activities there, so I think we constantly need to challenge ourselves.”
Hong Kong rugby stalwart and union president Peter Duncan is fully behind Schats’ vision to expand the tournament offerings during Hong Kong Sevens week.
When asked if Hong Kong has the ability to include a leg of the women’s World Series, Duncan said: “Absolutely. Women’s rugby is growing very, very significantly every year. That’s a matter of course for world rugby and it is them who decide how many teams compete in the series but there is heaps of potential for that.”
The women’s qualifier proved hugely popular at the Sevens this year with China stunning the crowd to beat South Africa in the final on Friday and advance to next season’s main World Series.
Japan won the men’s qualifier, beating Germany in the final on Sunday, and will join the elite teams next season while tournament favourites Fiji took home their fourth straight Hong Kong Sevens title.