S'pore to host one leg of World Rugby Sevens Series from next year
The worst kept secret in Singapore sport has finally been confirmed, after the announcement yesterday that the Republic will host a leg of the prestigious World Rugby Sevens Series for four seasons from next year.
The Sports Hub's 55,000-capacity National Stadium in Kallang will play host to heavyweights such as New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and England over a two-day rugby extravaganza next April.
Singapore joins Vancouver, Sydney, Paris and Cape Town as new stops on the expanded 10-leg series - up from nine - with Tokyo, Port Elizabeth, Gold Coast and Glasgow making way.
The eight-month competition features the world's top 16 teams in Sevens rugby, which will make its Olympics debut in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, next year.
The Singapore Sevens, which was last hosted here in 2006 at the old National Stadium, will mark the first time four world-class sports events will be hosted in Singapore in the same year - joining the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, tennis' WTA Finals and swimming's Fina World Cup.
The Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) had actually inked a Host Union agreement with World Rugby last November, but local officials declined to confirm the deal after signing a confidentiality agreement.
"After nine years of waiting, we are delighted to host the World Rugby Sevens once again," said SRU president Low Teo Ping yesterday.
"Now, with a spanking new stadium, we truly believe the Sevens has the potential to match the excitement surrounding other tournaments in the series.
"Engaging rugby in Asia and growing the sport at home is our prime vision.
"The key associated events and community outreach as part of this tournament will be critical as we strive to ignite passion among players and fans in Singapore."
A support Sevens tournament comprising South-east Asian sides, including Singapore, will precede the World Sevens and that final will be played on the Sunday of the main event.
Singapore pipped 25 other cities in the bid process, and Low wants the event here to take on a unique flavour as it matures from year to year.
"For starters, we want the event to be family-friendly and we plan to take advantage of the infrastructure of the Sports Hub as much as possible," he said.
"At the old National Stadium, attendance was around 10,000 over the two days.
"I'm confident we can get around 25,000 fans for the first year and, hopefully, grow even bigger from there."
Though it is too early to set ticket prices, SRU vice-president Jonathan Leow said the pricing strategy will likely be benchmarked to the admission prices of other tournaments in the series.
A three-day pass cost around $300 at the Hong Kong Sevens last month.
"We want to ensure tickets are affordable, and compatible with the rest of the series and other premium sporting events here," Leow said. "First, we have to get a ticketing partner on board to explore the packaging options.
"We should reveal more in the next six months."
The current HSBC Sevens World Series has been exceptionally competitive with qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games up for grabs.
South Africa, Fiji, New Zealand, England and Australia are leading the race for the four places to the Olympics.
The World Rugby Sevens Series will provide a big boost for Singapore rugby. And with marquee events like the F1, WTA and World Rugby Sevens, all of us can look forward to a more exciting and vibrant sporting calendar throughout the year.
— Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong posted on his Facebook page
SRU'S NEW BUSINESS ARM
In what is a first for any national sports association (NSA), the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) revealed yesterday that it has formed Rugby Singapore Pte Ltd, to run events for the next four years.
The move will free the SRU to focus on promoting the sport in Singapore, while the new company will weigh up organising top events here.
Next year's Rugby Sevens World Series event here will be Rugby Singapore's first commercial venture and Low is upbeat it will be a success.
"The NSA is about growing the sport, not funding or organising events. So we need to build a team with people from different backgrounds to help with the financial governance," Low explained.
"Rugby Singapore will drive the event, but we will, of course, be hiring event companies to help stage it.
"The company is in the process of being registered, and the manpower will be funded through a grant from Sport Singapore."
The Sevens World Series, Low said, will cost around $6 million to stage, and Rugby Singapore hopes to balance the books through sponsorship, merchandise and ticket sales.
The company will also help organise at least four Super Rugby matches here starting next year, when a team from Japan join the competition, which features teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The National Stadium will serve as a second home for the new Japanese outfit, who will only play South African clubs here.
The World Club 10s competition, which made its debut in Singapore last June, will not be held this year because of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.