Sport

NEW PHASE

World Sevens Series scaled back, revamped and renamed HSBC SVNS in global audience drive

World Sevens Series scaled back, revamped and renamed HSBC SVNS in global audience drive
Ricardo James Duarttee of South Africa on the attack during Day 3 of the 2022 HSBC Cape Town Sevens held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town on 11 November, 2022. (Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix)

In 2009 Rugby Sevens was made an Olympic sport and it had a positive impact on growth. But the World Sevens Series is changing.

Rugby fought hard to be included in the Olympics in the 21st century, nearly 100 years since it had last been played. The 1924 Paris Olympics marked the last time the oval ball game was included until 2016 in Rio, when it returned in the sevens format.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made that decision in late 2009 after intense lobbying by World Rugby. It was a significant day and marked a potentially huge turning point for rugby, and sevens in particular.

The growth of the World Sevens Series, in tandem with imminent Olympic inclusion drove sevens to new heights. Countries such as South Africa started full-time sevens programmes where none had previously existed.

The time, money and expertise spent on the sport by the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and even the US, once the Olympics were part of the equation, raised the stakes. And sevens enjoyed growth and growing support, with the World Sevens Series settling at a stable nine to 11 tournaments globally.

Dewald Human, sevens

Dewald Human of South Africa breaks past Lucas Lacamp of USA during their Pool A match during Day One of the HSBC London Sevens at Twickenham Stadium on 20 May, 2023 in London, England. (Photo: Luke Walker/Getty Images)

But the impact of Covid ruined nearly two full seasons of competition and forced a rethink. World Rugby have also prioritised the growth of women’s rugby with the introduction of the global women’s fifteens event called WXV, starting at the end of 2023.

The WXV will be played in three divisions in New Zealand, South Africa and Colombia in line with World Rugby’s vision to grow the women’s game.

Something needed to create breathing space on a tight calendar and consider player welfare needs. On Tuesday World Rugby announced a rebranding of the World Sevens Series and a scaling back to eight tournaments from 11 this season.

The sports’ governing body has presented these changes as growth rather than cutbacks, but there are fewer tournaments and teams (in the men’s section).

Non-traditional venues

The men’s section will be cut back from 16 teams to 12, in line with the Olympic format.

There is only one tournament in Europe — the Grand Final in Madrid. Traditional rugby strongholds such as New Zealand, England and France will not host a tournament while there are two in North America and Asia. Cape Town remains on the calendar as well.

Dalvon Blood, sevens

Dalvon Blood of South Africa tackles Alasio Naduva of Fiji during their HSBC Sydney Sevens men’s semi-final match at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia on 29 January, 2023. (Photo: EPA/Steven Markham)

“Our ambition is for SVNS to be at the forefront of our growth strategy, appealing to a younger, leisure-hungry audience,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said in a statement.

“In eight iconic destinations played over seven months, we will bring together a truly immersive festival of rugby, music, food and experiences to create the ultimate weekend-long get-together for young people, the hottest ticket, and open a new era for the sport.”

Madrid will host the relegation playoff competition where teams ranked ninth to 12th will battle it out alongside the top four teams from the second-tier World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

The top four placed teams of this playoff will secure their place in next year’s SVNS.

Men’s and Women’s teams will also receive equal participation fees. DM

HSBC SVNS – Festival dates  

Dubai, UAE – 2-3 December, 2023
Cape Town, South Africa – 9-10 December, 2023
Perth, Australia – 26-28 January, 2024
Vancouver, Canada – 23-25 February, 2024
Los Angeles, USA – 2-3 March, 2024
Hong Kong SAR, China – 5-7 April, 2024
Singapore, Singapore – 3-5 May, 2024
Madrid, Spain – 31 May-2 June, 2024 

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