Focus on Event Management: Singapore Rugby Union

SRU president, Low Teo Ping congratulates Piri Weepu, captain of the Auckland Blues at the Rugby World Club 10's.

Low Teo Ping, President of the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) shares about the positioning and development of rugby in Singapore and regionally over the coming years.

The importance of strategy is key in growing a sport.  What has been SRU’s strategy?

With Singapore internationally recognised as the destination for nations to meet, a starting and finishing point for visiting Asia and a thriving city to live, work and play, the SRU’s strategy is to leverage the inherent features of this city-state with the eventuality of positioning Singapore to become the region’s hub for Rugby development, entertainment and industry.  In fact, the growth of rugby as a sport, in the form of creating new opportunities for the region through key rugby tournaments, is the inevitable corollary of this vibrancy that Singapore brings.

Through a valuable partnership with a commercial sponsor, the commitment of a can-do volunteer team and strong grassroots’ support, we were proud to successfully showcase the inaugural World Club 10s Rugby at the spanking new National Stadium last June.

We had intended for the Maori All Blacks versus the Asia Pacific Dragons to take place in mid November and though the cancellation was unforseen and unfortunate, we have more events in the pipeline, including a hosting arrangement in conjunction with Japans new Super Rugby franchise in 2016 and the intended return of the Sevens World Series to Singapore.

We feel with the continued growth in popularity of Rugby around the world, the successful management of rugby related sports events in Singapore serves as a strong and strategic platform to initiate the growth spurt of the sport here.

What are the positive flow-on effects that Events Management has to offer?

The flow-on effects are many. From a short-term engagement such as a weekend tournament, we benefit from a “technical transfer” of expertise from the regional and international participants. For example, our local Rugby personnel/players were tagged to visiting teams as team liaisons to help facilitate any requests and ease any transitional issues. Through this exposure, our local players and personnel get to learn invaluable cutting edge knowledge in coaching, nutrition and strength and conditioning from these experienced international rugby talents. And they in turn will share their new found knowledge with other rugby players and personnel.

Technical officials who are flown in for these tournaments also transfer their knowledge by mentoring our local referees. Our local and regional referees are given exposure to the highest level of play right here at home ground.

The same process applies to event management and volunteer engagement. For the 10’s Rugby, we were fortunate to work with Sport Singapore and a committed pool of sports volunteers who were ready and willing to pitch-in at every turn, from contractor duties to event organisation. Such invaluable exposure has helped us learnt that staffing is crucial to ensure an overall better experience at future events.

Singapore Womens 7's player, Alvinia Ow is awarded her jersey at a pre-season ceremony

What specific initiatives does an NSA need to put in place to ensure a maximum return from hosting a marquee event?

It is important that the community sees a “return” on many levels. For example, with our bid for the Sevens World Series (SWS), we hope to implement a pathway from local community-level tournaments to an eventual participation in such world-class showcase events. In doing so, it sends a strong signal to our youth players that playing at marquee events such as the SWS can be a reality to them. And we hope, this aspirational draw will translate into better participation of rugby participation at grassroots level. Furthermore, it is important to establish a tangible benefit, so profits from the SWS would be earmarked to upgrade hardware (facilities and tools).

Creating events that involved the region around sports events such as the SWS is another key part of the SRU’s plan to develop the local and regional high performance pathway.

The “software” for an NSA infrastructure is built by creating awareness of the game beyond the traditional cornerstone support of players and die-hard rugby supporters. This can be done via initiatives such as Rugby as a tool for rehabilitation for  Youth at risk to widen the player base and leveraging on SWS as a platform for greater opportunities in developing rugby in Asia on and off the field

It is important to set Key Performance Indicators (KPI) when evaluating success.  In this vein, what are the KPIs that SRU has set for itself?

From a results perspective, over the next 4 years we are targeting to reach the top 4 regional position and a significant increase in technical and commercial benefits.  We want Singapore to be seen as the Asian partner of rugby – an invaluable resource in the development of rugby related international events. For example, we will work with World Rugby (Formerly known as the IRB) to host their courses and be featured as one of the region’s centers for training and education and seeding trainers. 

From a high performance aspect, we are looking at finalising a pathway that transcends the Southeast Asian Games and towards participation in major games such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and even the Olympics.

What is your advice to an NSA that wants to position itself for success and engaging the community?

It’s important to firstly clearly identify the respective NSA’s vision and mission.  From here, it is easier for the respective NSA to plan the steps to be taken.  The challenge is to identify the right vision and mission for the NSA.  A vision is a statement that defines what the NSA wants to achieve over time – a long-term focus. A mission, on the other hand, is a more immediate statement about what an organisation wants to do well day to day, over a shorter time frame, focusing on WHAT it does; WHO it does it for; and HOW it does what it does.   Without a properly defined vision and mission, the NSA will lose the opportunity to build a culture within an organisation. This has a flow-on effect on attracting/retaining talent and even productivity.

 For the SRU, our vision is to become a prominent and respected Union in the Asian rugby scene and sporting environment in Singapore with the mission of providing efficient governance and leadership for all Rugby related activities in Singapore that leads to a sustainable ecosystem for the development of a community game and one that excels internationally and regionally.


Local rugby player, Reiner Leong, playing for the Asia Pacific Dragons at the World Club 10’s Rugby

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