HSBC extends commitment to Asian rugby

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 19 January 2011
 HSBC extends commitment to Asian rugby
The five HSBC Asian 5 Nations captains Ayumu Goromaru (Japan), Timur Mashurov (Kazakhstan), Simon Leung (Hong Kong), Cyrus Homayoum (new UAE Rugby Association) and Sean Wijesinghe of Sri Lanka with the HSBC Asian 5 Nations trophy

HSBC has extended its commitment to Asian Rugby by announcing the continuation of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations and the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series.

HSBC and Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) today announced the continuation of their partnership in support of Asia’s premier 15-a-side rugby competition, and also announced the inception of the new rugby property, the HSBC Asian Sevens Series. Both sponsorships will run for the next three years from 2011 to 2013.

Mr Mark McCombe, CEO of HSBC Hong Kong and Mr Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship for HSBC Holdings plc joined Mr Trevor Gregory, Vice-President of ARFU for today’s announcement. Mr Dean Herewini, HSBC Penguin International Coaching Academy coach and the coach of Malaysia 15s was also in attendance.

Also present were players from each of the 2011 HSBC A5N Top 5 nations: Ayumu Goromaru of Japan; Timur Mashurov of Kazakhstan; Simon Leung of Hong Kong; Cyrus Homayoum of the new UAE Rugby Association and Sean Wijesinghe of Sri Lanka, Asia’s newest Top 5 team after they gained promotion from Division I in 2010.

China 15s and Sevens player and member of the China Sevens coaching team Zhang Zhiqang was also on hand to represent nations participating in the HSBC Asian Sevens Series.

Important day for Asian Rugby

Speaking on today’s double announcement, Mark McCombe, CEO of HSBC Hong Kong said, “Today is another important day for HSBC as we cement our commitment to developing rugby in Asia through both the HSBC Asian 5 Nations and the HSBC Asian Sevens Series. The HSBC Asian 5 Nations has grown massively since its inception and is increasing in popularity around the region. By investing in the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series, in addition to the HSBC Sevens World Series, we aim to encourage more people to become involved with rugby union through the shortened form of the game in the build up to the 2016 Olympic Games.”

Alongside the HSBC A5N, the HSBC Asian Sevens will extend ARFU’s international rugby footprint from April through November each season. The 2011 HSBC A5N Top 5 will again be held on consecutive weekends from 23 April to 21 May. Although identified by the elite Top 5 competition, HSBC A5N offers international competition or development support for all eligible ARFU unions. Outside of the Top 5, the tournament features five divisions, (up from four in 2010), offering test match rugby for 25 ARFU teams this season.

The HSBC Asian Sevens Series consists of four events in 2011, with two ranking events, the Shanghai and Borneo Sevens, staged in September 2011. Two other events will be held in Thailand and India next year. The ARFU international window for Sevens competition runs from September through November. The rankings will be used to determine eligible spots for invitations to HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments including the Hong Kong Sevens, as well as potentially serving as qualifiers for multi-sport competitions such as the Asian and Olympic Games.

“On behalf of ARFU, I would like to thank HSBC for their continued support,” said Trevor Gregory, Vice President of ARFU. "The HSBC Asian 5 Nations has been vital to the development and expansion of rugby in Asia at both the elite and grassroots level and we are very excited to renew our association. The advent of the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series promises to extend this remarkable growth even further. We have made tremendous strides in our sport since 2008 and we look forward to what the next three years will bring for Asian rugby."

New Coaching Tour

One constant for the coming years will be the commitment by both HSBC and ARFU to introducing rugby to new audiences through a Coaching Tour. This concept, first launched last year in conjunction with the HSBC Penguins International Coaching Academy, offered youth rugby clinics for over 3,000 youth across 10 countries in 2010. HSBC and ARFU are committed to growing this programme in the year ahead.

Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship for HSBC Holdings, explained the reason the bank continues to invest in rugby:  “Quite simply, rugby union works for HSBC in terms of enabling HSBC to communicate directly with so many target customers in key regions around the world. Rugby union shares many of the same values as HSBC as the world’s local bank – bringing together people from different cultures and communities with a shared passion, and it has proved to be a successful fit for our business.

“At the heart of every HSBC sponsorship is a commitment to the local community and the HSBC Asian 5 Nations in particular has a major community programme integrated with the sponsorship. To ensure a legacy, as well as coaching children, adults involved in this year’s coaching tour will be trained to IRB Level One enabling them to continue teaching youngsters to play the game in future years. It is the biggest investment in the growth of the sport of its kind in Asia.”

HSBC ambassador and Coach of Japan, John Kirwan, will join part of the coaching tour and is looking forward to engaging more audiences.

“As a professional coach and a former player I am fortunate to have helped coached youngsters around the world, but I am genuinely excited about being part of the coaching tour later this year. To travel to countries where rugby is only just emerging as a sport, but that in the long term could be competing in the Asian 5 Nations or even the Olympic Games is a fantastic opportunity and I can’t wait to inspire people of all ages and all cultures to pick up a rugby ball and run, but most importantly to have fun," said Kirwan.