Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive, HSBC, shares his memories of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament. HSBC sponsors the World Rugby Sevens Series Tour and the Women’s Sevens Series, as well as supporting grassroots rugby programmes around the world.
Where were you in 1976, the first year the Sevens was held?
I was studying A-levels at a grammar school in Plymouth in South-West England. I had never heard of sevens.
What year did you first attend the Hong Kong Sevens and what are your first memories of the tournament?
It was in 1984. Obviously, the tournament was a lot smaller in those days and the stadium was fairly basic. But just like today, the atmosphere was terrific. Everywhere you looked people were watching great rugby and having a good time.
Do you have any special memory?
I remember that it rained and rained. We all were soaked. It did not dampen the atmosphere.
Who won the tournament that year? Did any particular incident stick in your mind?
Fiji beat New Zealand 26-0 in the final. They absolutely stuffed the Kiwis and I think in hindsight that was the catalyst for New Zealand becoming the powerhouse in sevens they have now become. In the following five years, New Zealand were champions in 1986, 1987 and 1989 and runners-up in 1988!
What job were you doing at the time?
I worked on the 22nd Floor in World-Wide House on the trading floor as the current HSBC Main Building was still under construction.
Have you always been a big rugby fan? Did you play?
I am a keen fan of rugby but I never played the game.
What makes the Hong Kong Sevens so special?
The Hong Kong Sevens is Hong Kong’s carnival. It is unique because it is the only time where the professional classes of Hong Kong come together collectively and really party. The combination of world-class sport, the great venue, the international family crowd and the party atmosphere are unique. It’s a special place to be and that’s why people keep coming back year after year.
Did you ever think the tournament would grow this big?
It was hard to imagine that the tournament would reach the heights it has today given its humble origins. But the momentum has built over the years and the HSBC Sevens World Series has really helped the sport develop around the world. I think the fact that sevens has become an Olympic sport means that rugby sevens is going to go to a whole new level. The Hong Kong Sevens has been a catalyst for this growth and plays a huge role in helping the sport grow.
What’s your favourite memory of the Sevens?
I think, for all of us at HSBC, it was in 2012 when we were welcomed back as co-title sponsor of the Hong Kong Sevens alongside Cathay Pacific. To witness our former Chairman Sir William Purves present the trophy on the final day was a day of great pride for all of us.
Why is sponsoring rugby sevens so important to HSBC?
HSBC is proud to support the game of rugby internationally. Rugby is a sport with strong values of camaraderie, teamwork and hard work. These are values that are close to HSBC’s. The sport is growing rapidly and is hugely popular with our customers around the world. In particular, rugby sevens is booming internationally through both its inclusion at the Olympics in 2016 and through the HSBC Sevens World Series.