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The Wellington Sevens enters its 18th year with the daunting prospect that another sub-par attended event this weekend could be the Sword of Damocles that terminates the city’s long-time hosting. The metrics over the past few years have witnessed an ever-diminishing crowd that comes for the two-day event. This year, a pessimistic estimate is that only 15,000 spectators daily will see the tournament inside the 34,500 seat Westpac Stadium.
The apprehension is that down the road World Rugby will be forced to move the event to Auckland’s Eden Park in hopes of invigorating Kiwi enthusiasm and generating greater ticket sales. Currently, Wellington has a three-year event extension.
Sevens as a fan sport in rugby centric nations has witnessed a spectacular rise. Most evident has been the 55,000 attendance in Capetown after the South African event moved from Elizabeth. Similarly, tickets at Twickenham in England have increased dramatically, having moved into the mid-40,000 range. Vancouver produced full house sales in its inaugural season last year, the circuit’s only covered stadium.
The cozy Westpac Stadium known as the Cake Tin promotes the city’s largest sporting event, known for its many zany costumes. But the dressed up section is but a small area when compared to the rows upon rows of empty seats.
The All Blacks won five out of the past six Wellington tournaments. These victories should have been the impetus for fans in this rugby enthusiastic nation to come out and root for the home team. Apparently, it has not been enough.