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Rugby Union says Hong Kong Stadium needs 10,000 more seats to stay competitive
As rival cities Asian cities develop new and larger stadia, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union President Brian Stevenson believes that the Hong Kong Stadium must add at least 10,000 seats to its present 40,000 capacity if the city is to remain an attractive destination for major rugby and football events.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) has reported that Stevenson has called on the Hong Kong Government to develop a "longer-term" solution to remedy the current stadium's shortcomings, including improving the state of the pitch and increasing capacity to at least 50,000.
Stevenson told the SCMP "we cannot afford to look after our national stadium on a care and maintenance budget as is the case now.
"This will be our premier stadium until 2019 or 2020, and we have to find a way to make it bigger and better so that we can remain competitive on the international scene."
A major worry for the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) is that with capacity restricted to 40,000 at So Kon Po, it stands to lose out on tens of millions of dollars over the next seven years on ticket revenue from the Sevens.
With the Hong Kong Government yet to decide on the funding model for its planned new stadium and sport hub at Kai Tak, Stevenson said rugby and football were resigned to the fact they would have to deal with the Hong Kong Stadium for at least the next seven years.
However, he feels that the current stadium, last redeveloped in 1994, needs a major refurbishment, adding "we cannot only look at issues like putting in new turf. Going forward, the restricted capacity until 2020 could become a major issue for the Hong Kong Sevens.
"We must look at ways of increasing our capacity if our premier sporting tournament is to safeguard its leading status," said Stevenson, who is also the chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
"Other cities in the region have stadia with capacities of 50,000 and we will be left behind. They will become more attractive and this could result in us losing events.
"Singapore next April will have a 55,000-seater stadium. Nanjing , which hosts the Youth Olympic Games next year, already has a 60,000-seater stadium.
"We won't be able to match any of these cities until Kai Tak, or rather if Kai Tak, is built."
Following problems with the quality of the playing surface at the venue during the recent Barclays Asia Trophy and the visit by Manchester United, the Hong Kong Government set up an "expert working group" to look at medium-term solutions on improving the pitch.
Stevenson says the group's parameters should be extended to include the issue of increasing capacity.
HKRFU Chairman Trevor Gregory, a long-standing member of the construction industry, told the SCMP that it was possible to increase capacity at the stadium without causing major disruption to sporting events.
Gregory stated "it has been done in the past when the old government stadium was renovated, but we still continued to hold the Hong Kong Sevens every year."
Gregory also warned that Singapore's new National Stadium would be a threat, adding "at present our stadium and its pitch can't satisfy the demand of international organisers."
9th September 2010 - HONG KONG BLEDISLOE CUP WILL GO AHEAD
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