Rugby Sevens: what is the R.F.U. doing with our money and what risks lie ahead?

by Trevor Bailey

The success of the Sevens has filled the coffers of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, but uncertainty lies ahead. Photo: Sport Asia

The biggest risk to the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) financial position is re-location of the Sevens to the Kai Tak Sports Hub perhaps as early as 2022. This is stated by Paddy Donovan, Finance Director, in the RFU’s latest annual report. As Hong Kong recovers from another riotous Sevens weekend, it is interesting to take a look behind the scenes.
The RFU’s financial position, assuming a move of the Sevens to the new sports hub, “will depend on the commercial model of the new stadium and the mix of executive suites, corporate boxes and the percentage of revenue taken by the stadium operator,” Paddy writes. Construction of the sports hub is due to start in a few months, once the winning bidder is chosen from a shortlist of three. The winner will design, build and operate the sports complex for 25 years. On 28 hectares at Kai Tak and costing about $32 billion, the sports hub will include a 50,000-seat stadium, 10,000-seat arena, 5000-seat sports ground, shopping malls and “a dining cove”.
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Hong Kong Sevens: Biggest annual excuse to dress up and booze up. Photo: Youtube

What is the RFU doing with our money? The 2016-2017 report said revenue amounted to $231 million and operating expenditure $230.7 million. Scanning of the report shows the daft stuff of the past has been eliminated. Last century overly excitable RFU officials announced they were going to invest in rugby development in China. The community gulped at this, then gasped in disbelief when the RFU said they were looking at similar programmes for India. That silliness is all behind us. The RFU is spending its money wisely and as far as we can see from the report, all domestically.
The RFU is now headed by President Peter Duncan, Chairman Pieter Schats and Chief Executive Robbie McRobbie. Their staff totals 162, 63 of whom are players. A total of 87 teams compete in the senior leagues, eight men’s and three women’s. Mini-rugby attracts nearly 6000 kids. Charitable operations run by the union cover education, social inclusion, disability (wheelchair rugby) health (a lot of effort is going into injury prevention and rapid correct response when it occurs) and juvenile crime (the RFU works on sports development with the Correctional Services Department).
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Photo: CNN

Most Hong Kong rugby clubs are featured in sections in the annual report. Surprisingly Sai Kung’s hugely successful Stingrays do not, nor do the Kukris, although the likes of Taipo Dragons and Tin Shiu Wai Rugby Club do appear.
The report said 117,500 people visited the HK Sevens Rugby Week in Central, Fanzone in Chater Gardens, Kick-Off Concert on Thursday and Fanwalk programme created with Hysan Development. The RFU claims its Facebook page has a total reach of 3.8 million.

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