Family focus for S'pore Rugby Sevens

Family focus for S'pore Rugby Sevens

It will be held just one week after the iconic Hong Kong Sevens but Singapore is confident of scoring with its own unique flavour and identity when it also stages the World Rugby Sevens Series next April.

The Singapore Rugby Union (SRU), which unveiled its marketing plans to The Straits Times, said it will position the two-day extravaganza at the Sports Hub as one for the family to dispel any perception that such tournaments cater only to raucous revellers.

Hence, there will be family-friendly zones in certain sections of the National Stadium, where alcohol is banned and musical acts and children's performers will put on a show.

Using mobile phones, fans can order and be served food in their seats from stalls showcasing the cuisine of all 16 participating nations, including heavyweights like New Zealand and South Africa.

Those who have had their fill of tackles and tries can also go on specially arranged shopping and sightseeing tours.

SRU president Low Teo Ping said: "All 10 legs will see the same kind of rugby - what's happening off the field makes a world of difference and what we are planning is quite revolutionary."

The target is to get a daily crowd of 25,000 at the 55,000-seat National Stadium, with as much as a third coming from key markets such as Indonesia, Britain and Australia.

Tickets, which will go on sale in November, are expected to be priced from as low as $40 a day.

Low said there has been very strong interest from companies for hospitality packages.

Up to 5,000 tickets will be given to local schools, who also get to host the teams for training and coaching clinics. The SRU will also roll out a non-contact version of rugby sevens - known as "Tag 7s" - to expand the game at the grassroots level.

While Singapore is pulling out all the stops, having previously hosted a leg of the series in 2002 and from 2004 to 2006, Hong Kong is also expected to put up a fight to maintain its long-standing reputation as the crown jewel of the global series.

In its 40th year, it is known to draw around 120,000 spectators to the Hong Kong Stadium over three days. A recent ballot of 3,000 tickets attracted nine times as many applications. "Our tournament is built on strong foundations with a reputation and profile that is second to none - fans know what to expect and we do our best to deliver," said Robbie McRobbie, head of rugby operations at the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU).

"Singapore is a strong addition to the series. If we each can't pack our stadiums, it will be a sad reflection of the state of rugby in the two cities."

The HKRFU is keen to work with its Singapore counterpart to offer joint packages for flights, accommodation and match tickets to the only two Asia-Pacific stops in the series, cashing in at a time when rugby sevens makes its Olympic bow next year.

Tourists spent an average of HK$32,601 (S$5,654) during the week of the 2014 Hong Kong Sevens - up from HK$21,321 the year before, noted the HKRFU.

McRobbie said: "About half our crowd come from overseas as there are business conferences and other fringe activities held around the same time as the tournament."

Given the high stakes, and in a bid not to be outshone by Singapore, which replaces Hong Kong as host of the Barclays Asia Trophy pre-season football tournament from this year, a new 50,000- capacity stadium is set to be built near the old Kai Tak Airport by 2020.

This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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