Goodbye Rugby Sevens

This was a complicated article to write, as the deadline was before the Gold Coast was announced as Australia’s Sevens host city. This meant that most sources contacted couldn’t reveal much, changing my focus from the future to the game’s history in Adelaide.

Adelaide may have seen the last international-standard Rugby Sevens match for a while, with the city’s five-year contract to host a leg of the World Series at an end.

Perth and the Gold Coast are mounting sizeable bids to host the tournament for the next five years, but Adelaide is not giving up without a fight.

The Australian rugby community was surprised when Adelaide was chosen over major rugby states as one of the eight cites across the globe to host the International Rugby Board’s Sevens World Series, but the tournament has been a hit with both locals and tourists.

CEO of South Australian Rugby Union, Lachlan Clark, says the tournament generally attracts 30,000 spectators to Adelaide Oval over the weekend, with a large chunk of these from overseas or interstate.

“In 2010, 6,614 visitors from interstate or overseas came to Adelaide for the International Rugby Sevens Adelaide. The tournament injected an estimated $6.7m into the South Australian economy.”

The event has also boosted rugby’s player-base within the state, with Mr. Clark saying there had been a huge spike in interest over the past few years.

“Overall participation in rugby has doubled since 2005. Junior Club Rugby has increased 39 per cent in the same period. The event has also given Rugby a tremendous profile within the state.”

The International Rugby Board wants to keep the sixth leg of the World Series Down Under, and cities around the country are bidding for the five-year contract from the Australian Rugby Union. Neither Melbourne nor Sydney could confirm a submission, although both Perth and the Gold Coast have made their bids clear.

Chief Executive Officer of Western Australian Tourism, Stephanie Buckland, confirmed that the state’s events management sector, Eventscorp, was placing a bid, with the tournament planned to be held at Subiaco Oval.

“Eventscorp wants to develop a Perth leg of the World Rugby Sevens to be the premier event of the series, surpassing even Hong Kong.  We are confident that Perth and WA would embrace the World Rugby Sevens as there is already very strong spectator and corporate support here for the code.”

Adelaide has support from former Australian Rugby Union Captain, George Gregan, who believes holding the event out of rugby heartland will help the sport to expand.

“It’s great for Australia to have an event here and staging it in Adelaide is a good chance to try and grow rugby in an AFL stronghold.”

South Australian Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Tom Kenyon, agrees, and hopes Adelaide will be able to retain the tournament for the next five years

“The Rugby Sevens event has been a great success here in Adelaide, and South Australia has put in a very strong bid to continue hosting the event. For rugby to be a national game it needs to have a presence in South Australia, and we believe that the Adelaide Rugby Sevens tournament is the ideal format to achieve this.”

The future host city is expected to be announced in mid-April, but the Australian Rugby Union is not giving anything away. The entire tournament system of Rugby Sevens is under review after it was declared an Olympic sport for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and so even if Adelaide doesn’t retain the World Series, there may be other chances for South Australians to see this fast paced game in the near future.