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World Rugby faces a serious problem what decision to make – if any – regarding the sub par and unacceptable attendance at last weekend’s Wellington Sevens in New Zealand. The event, once a shining star on the HSBC sevens circuit, attracted barely 10,000 spectators, a steep decline from last year’s low tally.
The main reason for the significant fan shortfall stems from the decision to eliminate the “party” ambience from the event, reducing it to rugby only. Historically, Wellington was the birth place of the Sevens costuming. For the Kiwis, fifteens have always been the lifeblood of the nation, while sevens represented the fun aspect of the sport. It is doubtful that moving the tournament to Auckland would engender any crowd change if the no party dictum continued. Kiwis are Kiwis on both islands.
Last year, represented World Rugby’s aligning finally the ten regional tournaments that produced short travel trips between weekends. For Oceania, this witnessed Wellington followed by Sydney, which will repeat again this year. (Sydney for women and men is scheduled for this weekend.)
World Rugby’s optimum election would be to keep the tournament in New Zealand, anticipating that the Wellington event would return to its fun past if only to keep the tournament in the country and not lose face in the international rugby community. Other choices to move the event remain problematic and risky. For example:
- India Sevens - Many miles from Sydney in a cricket nation. Not much rugby played. Large, ex-Pat community.
- Seoul Sevens - Korea produced decent soccer football and excellent female golfers. Nation sends team to Hong Kong Sevens. Could national pride at hosting event generate a packed stadium for two-days?
- Japan Sevens - Tokyo hosted circuit tournament in the past without much success. Doubtful Japan would want to undertake another attempt.
- Argentine Sevens - Buenos Aires was once a named circuit site a few years ago but monies could not be found to stage an event. Could the result be different next year? It's a long way from Australia to Argentina but there might be the possibility of large crowds.
Another unsatisfactory option for World Rugby is to reduce the season to nine events, and not fill in the Wellington cancellation. Tough decision times ahead for World Rugby.