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We talk to Simon Anam, the Chairman of one of Hong Kong's Oldest Mini and Youth Rugby Clubs

Simon Anam

When it comes to rugby in Hong Kong, Simon Anam, Chairman of Valley Fort Rugby Club, has all the answers. Here, he shares what it's like to run one of Hong Kong's oldest mini and youth rugby clubs.

The Club was founded in the 1970s through the merger of two Hong Kong’s oldest and most prestigious rugby clubs, Stanley Fort RFC and Valley RFC. We now focus solely on rugby for children, while our sister club SocGen Valley covers adults.

We now have over 600 children aged between 4 and 18 playing the sport. The focus in the youngers years is purely on having fun, staying fit and learning about the sport’s values of respect, teamwork and fair play. As the kids get older, they play more competitive games against other clubs in the city.

We have a highly active and engaged community, with many of the parents coaching and managing teams. We organize many social events, as well as tours to other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan.

Children VF Rugby Club

For those not familiar, how is the club run?

We plough almost all the revenue back into the club. We have an Executive Committee of parent volunteers that oversee how the club is run - they will decide on strategy, operations, finance, and the day-to-day running of the club. We then have an On-Field committee led by a Director of Rugby who looks after the coaching and playing side.

Most of our revenue comes from annual playing subs, but we also have sponsors who allow us to spend that bit extra on things such as new equipment, festivals, transportation and community events.

With Rugby Sevens a huge event in Hong Kong, does the club play any role with it?

The children are usually invited to take part in exhibition games over the weekend, which give them a chance to play in front of the huge crowds in an amazing stadium. Plus, there is a parade of all the HK kids rugby clubs on the Saturday afternoon which is really special.

20212022 Valley Fort Rugby Club

There’s a lot of contact in the game of rugby, plus a club is always social. How did lockdowns and restrictions affect the club? Did you see members leaving or just staying put?

Lockdown and the restrictions certainly affected us in the first year of Covid, while we figured out the best way to continue to keep kids engage with the sport on the field. We wanted to balance safety with keeping fit and having fun throughout challenging times.

It wasn’t easy but I think we did really well in managing activity during that period.

We haven’t seen people leaving the club because of these restrictions, although there hasn’t been the influx of overseas families that we would typically see each year.

In the past two years, Hong Kong has undergone a lot of change, from protests to Covid-19. Has this changed the demographics of the club?

You are probably right in that the last few years have seen fewer expats moving to Hong Kong and that has changed our demographics, but we have always had many HK local families in the club.

What we have also seen is that for the people that are still here, and unable to travel, there is growing interest in doing more and keeping active. That has meant we’ve seen children, particularly at the older age groups, join the club in order to try out the sport from new.

In terms of expat and local mix, we are always keen to encourage more local families to look at the sport. Rugby is not as well known a sport in Hong Kong as, say, football; and so we have to educate in many instances, but what families love is rugby’s focus on things such as fair play, respect and teamwork. It really resonates with local families once they hear about the sport’s values.

How do you foresee the future of the club changing with the ‘new normal’?

I don’t think anybody really knows what the new normal is going to look like. Much of the uncertainty for many of the families at the club is being caused by covid related travel restrictions, which will ultimately pass.

Hong Kong has a knack of reinventing itself and adapting, and I’m sure the club will in the same way.

What were key wins you had during 2020/2021?

The main win for us in this past year has been the hiring of a full-time Director of Rugby. We were lucky to convince a very experienced schools and youth-level Coach, Justin Carroll, to move from Australia to take the position.

It’s the only full time and dedicated director of rugby role in Hong Kong focused solely on children, and it will give the club stability and consistency of coaching and on-field activity that it needs. It’s a strategic investment that we decided to make, and we are already seeing the benefits.

How do you keep team morale up during these challenging times?

There is a saying that we have in the club which is “no crying, no whingeing”! That’s important on the field and important when running the club!

Rugby is all about collective strength and teamwork, and the response, resilience and creativity of the club and indeed the wider Hong Kong rugby community over the past 18 months has meant that morale couldn’t be stronger.

Lastly, how has A-PASS supported the club during these times?

A-PASS has been helping us with a variety of things. From accounting to company and employee filings, invoicing, expenses and bookkeeping, to company secretarial work.

Where do I start? Because we are a volunteer organization where people have got involved primarily because they enjoy the sport or coaching, we often lacked the time and expertise to deal with many of the administrational aspects of running the club.

The main thing that A-Pass got stuck into was our accounting, payroll and banking. They put automation and processes in place that ensured that things were getting paid for in time, and records were being maintained accurately. Then they’ve been helping us with our filings, which had fallen behind due to a changes of personnel.