PHUKET CITY: The 8th Molly Malone’s Phuket International Rugby 10s tournament, originally to have been played at Karon Municipal Stadium this Saturday and Sunday, will now be held at Sanam Chai, opposite Phuket Provincial Hall on Narisorn Rd.
Tournament organizer Patrick Cotter, of the Phuket Vagabonds FC, told the Gazette that at about 3 pm today that he finally written received confirmation from the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) that the event could be held at Sanam Chai.
The search for a ground has been a painful experience. “The pitch at Karon Stadium is unplayable. It has not been renovated since the tsunami. Kata-Karon Municipality, which has always been supportive of the event, told us that they have been allocated the budget to re-turf the pitch, but that the money has yet to come through.
“They said we could get the ground re-turfed for 670,000 baht, but we don’t have the funds for that,” Mr Cotter said.
He explained that players, including the Thai national squad members who will be joining the event, had expressed concern about being injured by the poor-quality pitch.
The search for an alternative pitch has been a saga. An application, filed on April 7, to use the well-kept Surakul Stadium was officially denied about two weeks later on the grounds that the OrBorJor “didn’t want the pitch to be damaged.”
Mr Cotter was told to wait, however, until the following week for the denial to be reviewed by senior OrBorJor members. They decided to uphold the denial of permission.
Attention then turned to other grounds that might be suitable.
“The pitch at Saphan Hin is in a similar condition to Karon. I had a look at it and about three quarters of it was bare sand, so there was no point in even applying for that,” he said, adding that the British Curriculum International School had declined permission to use the school pitch.
“We were finally offered Sanam Chai, but we had to apply again, and go through the whole process again,” he said.
A disappointed Mr Cotter pointed out the poor facilities available at the Phuket City grounds. “There is one men’s toilet and one women’s toilet – with two cubicles in each,” Mr Cotter said. “What could pass for a changing room is being used as a storeroom. There is no seating and no cover – we will have to provide all that.”
He explained that about 2,000 people watched the grand final at last year’s event. “With confirmation of the new venue at such a late date, we now expect a lot fewer than that this year.
“However, there are 28 teams coming. That means in players alone we’re looking at 400 people, not including supporters and family members who come and then extend their stay so they can also spend a holiday here,” he said.
Mr Cotter explained that the Phuket Rugby 10s has been growing in popularity in recent years. “Last year the event generated about US$500,000 [about 18 million baht] in Phuket, as well as international publicity,” he said, adding that it was also featured in ESPN’s The Rugby Show, whose host Justin Sampson will be playing for the Bangkok Bangers in this year’s event.
“The whole event is becoming quite famous in the UK. One sports event organizer already has three teams lined up to come to next year’s event,” he said.
“We raised more than 700,000 baht for the tsunami orphans scholarship fund at last year’s event, and we’ll be raising more funds again this year,” he added.
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