Hong Kong Rugby Union Terminates Elite Rugby Program for Men's XVs - How You Can Help Fund the Canadian Elite Men's XVs Academy
News that Hong Kong has terminated its Elite men's XVs program due to the financial pressures of COVID should make Canadian rugby supporters take note and resolve to keep its Elite men's XVs academy funded and running. The Pacific Pride, aka Rugby Canada Development Academy, operating under the coaching of Jamie Cudmore and Phil Mack is one of the few competitive advantages Canada have over their Americas rivals. In order to get to the 2023 World Cup, Canada's first goal is to finish top 2 in the Americas, and in that context they are looking directly at USA and Uruguay.
The MLR as a competitive advantage will favour USA first just due to the number of athletes competing. Looking at last year's figures, the MLR was about 55% USA players, 15% Canadian and 30% Other (including Uruguay). This year's figures will be different but rosters aren't completely identified yet. South America have also started a pro league of their own which gives Uruguay, Brazil, Chile a chance to play an Argentine XV on a regular basis.
In an ideal world Canada would add a team or two to the MLR or start up a Canadian pro league, but neither looks likely early on in this World Cup cycle so it's even more important we keep the Pacific Pride operating and funded.
The Canadian Rugby Foundation has a fund specifically for this purpose. Donations to the fund are tax deductible. The link is below. https://canadianrugbyfoundation.ca/index.php/ccsd-pacific-pride-legacy-fund/ from South China Morning Post
The Hong Kong Rugby Union will terminate its Elite Rugby Programme (ERP) – the full-time men’s 15-a-side national team set-up – after current player and staff contracts run out at the end of June.
The decision to revert to its previous semi-professional model was a reluctant but necessary one given Covid-19 and its resultant financial and logistical impact, the Union said.
This means 30 athletes, four part-time “junior ERP players” and five staff members, will not be renewed on a full-time basis when their contracts expire on June 30. They will be the final batch of players and coaches under the programme introduced in 2016.
As of Monday, all affected players and staff have been informed of the decision with assurances that they will receive compensation and help for future employment opportunities. The Union will continue to fulfil their contracts, health insurance and retirement funds until contracts expire.
The domestic and international rugby scenes have felt the wrath of the pandemic this season. The two-year postponement of the city’s marquee event, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, along with uncertainties over future tournaments and qualifiers, and the ending of the Hong Kong government’s Employment Support Scheme (a limited-time anti-epidemic fund or financial support for employers to maintain struggling employees), meant the Union could no longer sustain the ERP.
The Union said the cut applies only to the elite men’s 15s set-up; the men’s and women’s sevens and the women’s 15s programmes remain intact.
“These exceptional circumstances necessitated a change to our current model with the objective of ensuring our long-term financial sustainability,” said HKRU chairman Patrick Donovan.
“Having made this difficult decision, it was imperative to give the affected players and staff as much notice as possible so we can work with them to support the transition to other opportunities.
“The decision has not been taken lightly and player welfare has been at the heart of what has been a very difficult and lengthy discussion process over the future of the ERP. This is something we remain fully committed to.”
The men’s 15s national team, who came heartbreakingly close to qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, had been setting their sights on the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France as postponed qualifiers beckoned. They have not played competitive rugby since March last year.
Though chances are slim, there is a route to one of the eight remaining spots should they win the postponed Asia Rugby Men’s Championship [ARC] 2021 against South Korea and Malaysia.
Hong Kong are the defending 2018 and 2019 ARC champions. The winners would be thrust into a home-and-away play-off against the Oceania Cup winners, either Tonga or Samoa. If they do not win the play-off, they will be seeded in a last-ditch repechage qualifier tournament.
“Many unions around the world are having to make – or have already made – similar decisions,” Donovan said. “The global game is facing a period of uncertainty as we try to assess the lasting impact of the pandemic on the sport.
“The continuing financial challenge imposed by Covid-19 on our hosting of the Hong Kong Sevens, which accounts for 95 per cent of our income, has been further exacerbated by the end of Global Rapid Rugby and the postponement of the Rugby World Cup qualifier from November 2021 to August 2022.”
In its annual general meeting in July last year, the Union said it had suffered a “significant” financial setback of more than HK$150 million, a stark difference to its loss of HK$6.6 million in 2019. Two months earlier, it laid off 12 of its 155 full-time staff.
Other factors such as the postponement of the inaugural Asia-Pacific Rugby Championship until 2023 and uncertainties over the proposed moving of the Sevens to the new Kai Tak Stadium also played a role in the decision.