Pro rugby sevens teams for Singapore
Pro team to be assembled next year; players to train full-time and study part-time
Singapore's rugby sevens men's and women's national teams could go professional in a year's time.
The Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) is expected to unveil its new strategic plan next month and, among other thrusts, it includes an aim to improve playing standards.
"I would give it a year, or a year-and-a-half, once the money is there," said SRU president and Rugby Singapore chairman Low Teo Ping on Wednesday.
"We almost started it last year, but not the full team - a handful of players. There are a lot of boys and girls today who are prepared to do part-time tertiary or higher-education studies.
A FREE EDUCATION
"These are the kind of players we believe can play full time; they train, then they study (part-time), and they get paid to offset their studies. You're not going to finish your education in three or four years, but it's free."
The teams will represent Singapore in tournaments such the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, but they will also aim to do well in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, which is a stepping stone to the 10-stop HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, of which Singapore hosts a leg on April 15 and 16 at the National Stadium.
Japan and wildcard entry Hong Kong are the only two Asian teams in the world series, with Hong Kong topping the men's table in the Asian series last year.
The Republic's men's team won just one of nine matches in the continental series last year, which was played over three legs, while the women's team won two of their nine games.
The professional teams will be bankrolled by profits generated by Rugby Singapore, a wholly owned SRU subsidiary, which organises the Singapore Rugby Sevens, as well as Super Rugby matches here.
Low said Rugby Singapore is already profitable from its first year of operations, despite having no start-up capital when the company was started.
A foreign investor, reportedly French-based sports marketing agency ScoreXV, has already invested $1 million into Rugby Singapore in a profit-sharing deal, while Low said there are numerous opportunities on the horizon to host world-class rugby events in the future.
He said: "You are looking at the 2019 (Rugby World Cup) in Japan; there are opportunities there, with a lot of teams coming through here to get over their jet-lag before they head up to Japan.
"We can host a few matches, and we are already in talks, although it wouldn't be the likes of New Zealand and Australia, since they are in the same time zone."