Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018

Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018: Hong Kong needs Kai Tak Sports Park stadium to keep top dog status, as San Francisco proves

Americans put on fantastic show at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and Hong Kong may struggle to compete given limitations of So Kon Po stadium

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 10:58pm

The Hong Kong Sevens’ needs a new stadium if it is to stay ahead of the competition, with San Francisco’s successful staging of the Rugby World Cup Seven proving that rival cities are catching up.

Hong Kong Rugby Union chief executive Robbie McRobbie, who attended the tournament over the weekend, said he was impressed by how the Americans put on the three-day show at the 40,800-capacity AT&T Park – the home of baseball’s Giants.

“We definitely need a new stadium,” said McRobbie. “The entire sporting community in Hong Kong is looking forward to the Kai Tak Sports Hub.

“It will certainly provide us with an absolutely world-class sporting venue and an environment that will enable us to do a lot of stuff that is currently a bit of a struggle with the existing stadium.”

The HK$32 billion Kai Tak Sports Hub is scheduled for completion in 2022 and will feature a number of top-class sporting facilities including the showpiece 50,000-seater main stadium.

Around 100,000 people are estimated to have attended the three-day World Cup in San Francisco as the American public enjoyed a taste of sevens rugby of the highest level.

Listen you sad, obsessed Hong Kong Stadium loyalists – let it go! The Sevens must move to Kai Tak Sports Park

When asked if the atmosphere at AT&T Park was comparable with that generated by the So Kon Po crowd in Hong Kong, McRobbie said: “Look, I think the great thing is the entire sevens tournament community ... we all work well together and learn from each other and collectively raise the bar for each other.

“And I think USA Rugby, with the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, notched the bar up again. We look forward to taking on that challenge and making sure the 2019 Hong Kong Sevens is again a fantastic event for spectators.

“I’ve got to take my hat off to San Francisco. They put on a fantastic show. There was a lot of US-style razzmatazz, which was great. And a lot of little things they did extremely well.”

While the Hong Kong Stadium generates a fantastic atmosphere thanks to its spectacular location nestled against a picturesque hill, facilities for players and spectators are limited.

Winning the Kai Tak bid is the easy part – good luck making it a success in sport-starved Hong Kong

McRobbie said San Francisco made the most of its expertise to provide fans with a memorable experience. The success of the tournament also provides a strong platform for the promotion and growth of rugby in the US.

“They did many things very well,” he said. “Their World Cup app had lots of good stuff, using social media and fans being able to watch the speeds of players and referees as they ran around. The announcing and music was done very well as well as the hospitality.

“It was a wonderful event. I think as people look back, it will be a watershed moment for the sport in the United States in terms of growing the profile of rugby sevens and rugby more generally in North America.

“It was a great venue, a great crowd and great atmosphere and there were very good performances off the pitch and on the pitch as well.”

The Hong Kong Sevens, which is considered to be the jewel in the World Sevens Series, will be held from April 5-7 2019.

There was concern that this year’s event would fall flat because many of the big teams, such as New Zealand, South Africa and England, sent weakened squads so they could save their best players for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

However, the Hong Kong Sevens fans came to the fore once again and the atmosphere was electric and proved that, while the rugby was important, spectators gave priority to having a good time.