According to Murray Barnett, World Rugby’s Head of Commercial, Broadcast and Marketing, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series continues to remain as the main engine for growing rugby audiences worldwide – more so than the Rugby Sevens debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Sevens Series is still what the players want to win
Said Barnett, “The Sevens Series is still what the players aspire to win. Having watched Rugby Sevens at the Olympics on television, we believe audiences will be more keen to watch the Sevens Series this season. With all that’s happening in the world, more people will be interested in sports to escape the realities of life.”
In the new edition of the Sevens Series, which had kicked off at the beginning of this month, South Africa had kick started their season with a win in the first tournament in Dubai. Then in the second tournament, which ended yesterday, England shocked the South Africans in Cape Town in the final, to win the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
The next leg of the series now moves on to Wellington next month.
Singapore leg is one of the key events of the Sevens Series calendar
The Singapore leg will take place on 15 and 16 April next year and Barnett describes it as one of the “key events” on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series calendar. But he did not rule out future competition from other cities.
Said Barnett, “It won’t be long before you see more than two tournaments in Asia, because the buzz around Rugby Sevens is much greater in Asia than in other parts of the world. We have interest from many Asian cities wanting to host a Sevens Series event. Right now our primary concern is player welfare. There are only a certain number of tournaments the players can play, so I don’t see it happening in the next year or two. But there will come a time when we will work out if the squads are big enough and if teams can manage the rotation of players better, to enable us to then add new cities onto the Series schedule.”
A recent visit to Singapore by Barnett
Barnett had shared this during a recent visit to Singapore, where he was shown around Singapore’s iconic National Stadium. And Barnett was impressed by the world’s largest retractable domed roof, which ensures non-stop action whether rain or shine, as well as air-cooled seating, a spacious concourse and promenade for fan engagement activities.
Said Barnett, “In terms of amenities, it’s probably the best stadium hosting a Sevens series event. World Rugby conducts post-event surveys where players are asked about everything from facilities to food, transport, hotel accommodation and more, and Singapore came out as one of the top two events in the Series in these areas. To achieve that in its very first year is just incredible.”
Singapore had made its HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut at last year’s tournament.
Added Barnett, “What is more important is that it’s not just expats wanting to watch the Sevens. We see overseas visitors from Asia coming in to watch and Singaporeans getting interested in the sport. In terms of commercial sponsorships it’s also very buoyant, as the Rugby Sevens provide sponsors with excellent value of money. In developing markets we look for a strong union, good sized economy and a liking for the sport. When you put all of these together it may eventually lead to further success on the playing field – it will be great to have a Singapore team on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series one day.”
Rugby at the Olympics
Barnett had also shared during his visit, that last year’s edition of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series had been billed as the Road to Rio and hit year-on-year highs for attendance, viewership and engagement figures as six different nations won the Series finales. One of the greatest shocks had been underdogs Kenya winning the tournament on Singapore soil.
And at Rio 2016, the Rugby Sevens event had been the most socially-engaging Sevens of all time, and a study by Nielsen Sports showed that compared with other Olympic sports, interest in Rugby Sevens saw the highest increase following the Summer Games.
The Olympic tournament, which had seen Fiji winning their first ever Olympic medal, was also the return of rugby to the Olympic stage for the first time in 92 years.
Said Barnett, “The Sevens game is the growth engine of the sport. It is attractive to younger people and suited to a wide demographic. It’s not as technical as 15-a-side Rugby Union and more appealing for young people to take part in. Hopefully it ends up being their gateway into the longer form of the game. Asia Rugby also hopes to develop one million players by the time of the first Rugby World Cup in Asia.”
This 15-a-side Rugby World Cup will take place in Japan in 2019 – the first time an Asian country is hosting the world tournament.
Buy tickets for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens
Tickets for the 2017 HSBC Singapore Sevens are currently available.
Till 31 December 2016, two-day season passes for adults (S$120 for Category 1 and S$40 for Category 2) are 20% lower than in the general sale period (1 Jan 2017 onwards). Rugby Singapore is also offering the first 5,000 Category 1 ticket-buyers a free HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s commemorative t-Shirt and more details can be found on www.singapore7s.sg.
Photos are courtesy of Rugby Singapore.