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The world glows optimistic that rugby in all forms, for women and men, boys and girls, sevens and fifteens, college and club, youth and masters, and, professional expansion will witness an increase both in participation and in attendance because of the recent Rio Olympic tournament.
In the Lebanon, New Hampshire’s Valley News, the sub-headline to a recent article stated, “NEW CLUB GROWS WITH AWARNESS OF OLYMPIC NOTICE.” (See photo above, and thanks to Dr. Maynard Wheeler, Dartmouth ’61 for the submission.)
Only time will tell whether rugby worldwide will generate the bounce that many anticipate. Will the sport’s exposure on global television engender a positive and residual effect, influencing more young people to take up rugby?
The consensus is that girl’s and women’s rugby will certainly benefit from the Women’s 7s Olympic event. For the first time ever, women’s rugby played out center stage on the world’s broadcast media, equaling the same television coverage as the men. Millions of young women saw sevens for the first time, and could be impressed by the athleticism and excitement of the twelve entered teams. If these female viewers caught any and all of Australia’s games, they marveled at the grace, power, and team spirit of the gold medal winner. Here in full view were a true Band of Sisters, playing unselfishly, and relishing the victory.
For the men’s game going forward, there were two takeaways, (1) A first look at sevens for many current and former players only previously familiar with fifteens, and, (2) perhaps more importantly, the emergence of Fiji as international and entertaining superstars.
In the latter instance, World Rugby anticipates increased crowds attending the ten, 2016/2017 HSBC Sevens Tournaments to see the Fijians first hand. These gold medal sevens magicians – thanks to the Olympic coverage – received spectacular and deserving media attention, and now stand in the same notable sports rank as Brazilian soccer or USA basketball.
During the next twelve months, expect more rugby media attention, more reference to the Olympics, and, probably, more youth at the high school and college levels becoming interested in rugby.
A bounce for sure, but how high?