Over the past 6 years, Accredit has had the opportunity to work in the hard hitting world of professional rugby, initially with our work with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) at Twickenham. Since that time, we’ve taken on a host of other equally inspirational sporting clients from Premiership Football Clubs, to national and international cricket, to motorsports racing and many more.
However, there has always been one client’s event that has fascinated and intrigued me in different ways. Perhaps it’s the laid-back professionalism of the organising team, or maybe it’s the fast paced game itself, or even the legendary stories of the South Stands, but after working with The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens from a distance for years, I knew that this year I had to see astronomical force in global Sevens Rugby for myself. So I got hold of our main point of contact at the Hong Kong Rugby Union, Head of Operations, Michael Wan and asked him if he was free to meet up after the tournament and give me some insights into how he manages the tournament to which his reply was a welcoming “Yes Peder, Yes I am.”
The Hong Kong Sevens is a pilgrimage for Rugby Sevens fans from across the globe. No one can say that the Island of Hong Kong is ever subdued but when the Sevens come to town, the city takes on an extra level of electricity. People fly in from around the world in order to be a part of the experience and the Hong Kong Rugby Union leads the way with flags from 28 countries flying high.
We landed in Hong Kong a day early for meetings and in order to acclimatise ourselves and take in the atmosphere in the lead up to the weekend. By Friday the city was heaving with excited fans, slowly making their way to the stadium for the start of the men's tournament. We made our way up by the late afternoon after the Rugby had started but not before the South Stands were filled. From there started a weekend like I’d never experienced.
On the field, the play was fast. South Africa blew away South Korea 45-0 in a blistering win. New Zealand clobbered Russia 36-5. I was interested in seeing how the US would perform and it was a good match against France where the teams drew at 24 each. Scotland defeated England and Argentina, Spain, Kenya, and Fiji all won their games. All this rugby was interspersed by a brilliant Elvis impersonator giving it all the hips between games from an elevated stage above the North Stand.
Most of the people we met during the Friday matches seemed to have been to the HK Sevens several times before and there was one single recurring theme dished out like the Fight Club rules, except there was only one rule and that was that if it was my first time to a Saturday at the HK Sevens, I had to see it from the South Stands and I needed a fancy dress outfit or I’d just look ridiculous.
Saturday morning I got up, head worse for wear but excited about spending the day in the beautiful stadium watching rugby. Dressed as surgeons, myself and my two cohorts headed back to the stadium for a day in the sun looking over Hong Kong while watching the rugby. As we got closer and closer to the stadium, we began to encounter a host of stewards and security, all incredibly helpful and polite and thus began an over-arching impression that lasted the duration of the event; the Hong Kong Rugby Union manages an incredible balance between hosting the biggest festival in the East that weekend with precision security mixed with unprecedented customer service.
The subsequent two days were a mix of brilliant Sevens Rugby, hilarious interactions with people from all over the world, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blaring from the speakers at the stadium and the voices of the fans every 2 hours, and continuous admiration for the HKRFU and their team. In the end, Fiji defeated Kenya 24-12 to win the weekend and Hong Kong defeated me.
After the tournament was over and on Monday morning, I’d made my way back to the stadium to the offices of the HK Rugby Union to meet up with Michael. On our walk down to lunch, we spoke about the history of Hong Kong hosting the Sevens, the plans for a new Stadium and entertainment complex on the site of the old airport, and the intricacies of balancing that sort of excitable crowd with world class security and accreditation. Eating his soup at the noodle bar at Ramen Jo, Michael Wan, one of the most positive and relaxed professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with slowly turned his head to me and asked, “So Peder, now that you’ve seen Hong Kong Sevens once, are you going to come back?”
Yes Michael. Yes I am.
Peder Berg, CEO and Co-Founder, Accredit Solutions