There will be no prize money for the winners of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong sevens this year.
Previously, the victors received a winning bonus of US$150k from the host union, but this season the cash prize has been taken off the table.
Hong Kong has traditionally been the only leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series to offer a prize to the winners – after beginning the practise in the 80s –but with the Hong Kong Rugby Union investing in other areas of the game, they felt it prudent to cease providing the financial incentive.
Vern Reid, CEO of the HKRU, tells Rugby World of the decision: “The situation is now, with the Union, that we have rapidly expanded our operations both professionally – with our full-time 15s squad – and we’ve put a lot more resources into the community. So that, combined with the fact there’s now professional players being paid well on the circuit, plus the opportunity to play in the Olympics and investment into sports institutes to make players better – all those things tell us really that prize money is becoming obsolete.”
The union did look at removing prize money from the Hong Kong sevens last year, however, with their plans to professionalise their 15s programme still to be fully realised, they still provided a cash prize to last year’s winners, Fiji.
With some poorer unions seeing the prize as an ideal way to subsidise their athletes’ income, and with Fiji in particular strong performers every year who had given around 90% of their prize money to the players in 2015 after their victory, it is a decision that may have significant impact on players’ finances.
“We didn’t take the decision likely at all and we do appreciate that for nations like Fiji the money is important,” Reid insists. “But in the scheme of things, we decided it was time. We have been the only tournament to pay prize money and perhaps that gave us an edge, but we took the decision that now is the time to finish it.”
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