LONDON, (INSIDE THE GAMES) – Sevens must be considered in all discussions about the rugby calendar as the discipline looks to capitalise and build on the opportunities provided by its first appearance on the Olympic programme at Rio 2016, it has been claimed in London Tuesday.
A report entitled The Future of Rugby has been released by World Rugby Sevens Series sponsors HSBC describing the Olympic opportunity as a “game-changer” which should have an even greater impact for the sport than last year’s 15-a-side World Cup.
Seven predictions are made forecasting the state of the sport in 2026, including that global participation levels will have doubled to 15 million people.
Popularity is expected to especially soar in the large markets of United States, Germany and Brazil – with China set to be close behind.
Six million of these players – representing 40 per cent of the total – will be female.
Sevens is seen as a crucial part of this development and will start to drive revenues in its own right as its visibility and reputation grows, it is predicted.
Its television viewing experience will also be “transformed by innovations demonstrating the speed, skill and sheer athleticism of the players”.
But it will not have a “cannibalising” affect on the 15-a-side-game, with the two seen as mutually compatible.
The report comes as incoming World Rugby President Bill Beaumont bids to tackle wide-ranging concerns with the rugby calendar, chiefly concerning the balance between club and international 15-a-side seasons.
Rugby sevens must be considered in discussions, according to HSBC global head of sponsorships and events Giles Morgan, with a change to the current December to May format of the World Series one idea.
“That might be impossible, but we think World Rugby need to look at it holistically,” he said.
Increasing the number of legs from 10 to 12 is another idea, with new markets in Asia and the Americas being explored.
One other idea mooted today was a leg in Munich to coincide with Oktoberfest.
Morgan was joined by England captain Tom Mitchell, 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson, and two-time Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson here today.
Robinson, a rugby league convert who possessed the speed and dynamism to be a sevens natural, expressed his regret that he came a generation too early to play at the Olympic Games.
“We have only scratched the surface on the potential of sevens going forward,” he said.
Thompson, one of Britain’s best known Olympians, claimed the Games will reach an audience far bigger than any rugby has had access to before.
“Olympics and sevens has a wonderful opportunity, but they have to take it,” he said.
“I have no doubt the players will, but the administrators also need to make the most of the chance.”