Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Orient Rugby Express

This weekend sees the IRB Sevens World Series light up the Orient with its flagship event in Hong Kong. The high profile tournament has been an important fixture in the international sports calendar for a number of years now but has recently sparked something of a Rugby explosion in South East Asia.

When we think of where the next frontiers for Rugby expansion would be, the obvious choice would be South America. Argentina’s impressive showing at the last World Cup shows there is already an appetite there. But something very interesting is happening in Asia which has been inspired by the success of the shortened version of the Game.

The growth and popularity of Sevens has been meteoric over the past five years especially. It is no longer a small side show for show offs and posers. It is now a well established, well supported commercial success commanding huge television audiences and packed stadiums. And the flames have been fuelled by Sevens’ readmission into the Olympic programme for Rio 2016. Olympic inclusion opens a number of previously locked doors for Rugby and, with leading sponsors with the financial muscle of HSBC, the expansion is set to continue.

HSBC has signed several lucrative deals to raise Rugby’s profile in South East Asia. In October last year, the bank signed a five year deal to be the lead sponsor of the IRB’s Sevens World Series. Speaking at Rugby Expo in November, HSBC’s Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan paid homage to Rugby’s ‘spirit and traditional values’ and said the bank was committed to helping the IRB grow the Game on a global scale.

The immediate effects are already evident. The Sevens World Series has signed television distribution deals in America, India, Russia, Italy, Israel and the Pan-Asian network Star. Tournaments and highlights can now be seen in 140 countries and is expected to reach 400 million homes.

Sevens is now a staple part of several multi-sport events. I have mentioned the Olympics, it is also a flagship event at the Commonwealth Games, was included in the CACSO Games last year, and will be in the Pan-American Games later in the year. 30,000 enthralled fans watched Japan claim the Asian Games Sevens gold medal last year as well.

The Hong Kong Sevens is taking place as I write this. It always looks like such an incredible tournament and one I would love to go to one day. Two people who are ‘living the dream’ are Sebastian Perkins and James Rodwell.

Baz and Rodders will be taking to the field at this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens
Baz was named this week in the Hong Kong’s squad - he’s come along way from playing in the Billericay Sevens with the RBS Royals! Rodders is a cornerstone of the England team and was the year below me at school. Both of them are great guys so I wish them both good luck for this weekend.

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