Sponsors galore as MCKK Premier 7s shows the way

MCKK Premier 7s Rugby Tournament

Boring long-winded speeches usually take up most of the time during event launches.

But the launch of the 10th edition of The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) Premier 7s rugby tournament yesterday instead saw a long list of sponsors – 26 to be exact – being named.

From major sponsors to service providers, the sponsorship value according to the organiser, is worth some RM500,000 – all that for a schools rugby event! The amount somewhat defies sentiments of financial analysts of a gloomy 2020.

The event, scheduled for Feb 28-March 1, has attracted 21 schools from Malaysia, including Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid, MCKK, Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Victoria Institution, English College and Royal Military College and three schools from abroad – Vajiravudh College (Thailand), Jerudong International School (Brunei) and Sekolah Menengah Atas Darunnajah (Indonesia). A school from Singapore and Hong Kong cancelled their participation in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

Malay College Old Boys Association (MCOBA) president Tunku Datuk Ahmad Burhanuddin Tunku Adnan said this was testament of MCKK’s ability to provide these brands the desired return of investment.

“It’s not just about networking, about knowing the right people but also about giving our sponsors something in return. They too have to justify their expenditure and we are glad that our tournament has been able to give them just that,” said Ahmad Burhanuddin.

The 11 major sponsors are Tenaga Nasional Bhd, UEM Group, Ranhill Holdings Bhd, Menteri Besar Incorporated, Keloil Sdn Bhd, System Consultancy Services, Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor, Allianz Malaysia Bhd, Central Sugars Refinery, Central Cables Bhd and UDA Holdings Bhd.

The official products and service providers are Yamaha, Tackle Asia, KPJ Healthcare Bhd, SA Logistik Sdn Bhd, Supreme Landmobile & Wireless Corporation, Shekhinah PR, Unifi, Nestle (Malaysia) Bhd, MZR Group, Etika Holdings (Revive & Pepsi), ATF Sport Taping, Big Tree Outdoor Sdn Bhd, Mentor Solutions & Resources, Red Ambulance Services and Sporteqa.

Ahmad Burhanuddin thanked the sponsors for their commitment, adding the tournament is in the interest of promoting the sport and unearthing talent for the national team.

“I hope that one day Malaysian rugby can stand tall as one of the top teams in the world and even qualify for the Rugby World Cup.”

While the dream of qualifying for the World Cup may seem distant to some, echoing an equally bullish sentiment is Malaysia Rugby president Datuk Shahrul Zaman Yahya.

Shahrul, had before last year’s annual general meeting where he defended his post, set a target of Malaysia qualifying for the Rugby World Cup in 2031. He now also hopes to see the MCKK Premier 7s turn into the “Champions League of schools rugby” in Southeast Asia.

“In fact, I wish to see this event be as big as the Hong Kong 7s. Some US$200 million in revenue was generated during the three-day event there and I’m sure we can create such interest here,” said Shahrul.

“At the end of the day it’s all about ringgit and sen.”

Shahrul also revealed that thanks to the event’s patron Sultan Nazrin Muizuddin Shah, former Australian player Toutai Kefu and New Zealand’s Andrew Philip Mehrtens will be brought to Malaysia for several camps in conjunction with the competition. The camps will be held in several schools in Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and one for the national team at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Shahrul also commended the sponsors, saying this was encouraging for the sport and hoped they would also invest in the national teams.

First national rugby stadium

Shahrul also spoke about the progress of Malaysia’s first national rugby stadium, not before correcting the presumption of a rugby avenue in the country.

“We already have rugby stadiums in the country … in Perak, in Terengganu, there’s one being built in Sabah and another being built ahead of the Malaysia Games in Johor. The project in Putrajaya is the first national rugby stadium,” he said.

“Tenders were closed on Feb 5 and ground work is expected to begin in May or June. Construction will take between 18 and 24 months.

“We did not get the specifications we wanted but we are happy nevertheless. Getting a stadium is one thing but maintaining it is another thing altogether but we have plans.”

The suggestions that the government turned down due to financial constrains include a seating capacity of 5,000, a hostel, an academy building and artificial turf.

“It’s not supposed to be just for rugby but to serve as a community centre and we must try and monetise the stadium by getting F&B outlets there too. We must look at stadiums in the United Kingdom where they are sponsored by companies, similar to our Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil,” Shahrul added.

National teams to focus on Asian Games 2022

Shahrul also revealed that Malaysia Rugby and its counterparts in the region are trying to lobby for the sport to be part of the Vietnam SEA Games in 2021. Although the list of sports has yet to be finalised, rugby may not make the cut as Vietnam does not have a formidable team.

Host nations tend to list sports that favour them en route to being crowned overall champions, a move that has drawn plenty of flak over the years.

“If it does not happen for the 2021 SEA Games, we will focus on the 2022 Asian Games, which will most likely be the case. We’ve had meetings with the National Sports Council but no firm decision has been made as we are still evaluating the situation.

“Hopefully, we will firm things up during our meeting with the council on Feb 24.”

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