Should Adelaide be hosting IRB Sevens?

Should Adelaide be hosting IRB Sevens?

Australia hosting a leg on the IRB Sevens World Series should be a match made in heaven. The Aussies know their sport like no other and seeing some of the best rugby athletes on the planet perform in the fast, frenetic, and highly skilled cauldron of international Sevens has the ability to whet their appetite to the max.

Robin Heymann

Australia hosting a leg on the IRB Sevens World Series should be a match made in heaven. 

The Aussies know their sport like no other and seeing some of the best rugby athletes on the planet perform in the fast, frenetic, and highly skilled cauldron of international Sevens has the ability to whet their appetite to the max.

Furthermore, the majority of Aussies (excuse the lazy stereotypical cliché) also like a drink combined with some raw entertainment at their ‘Live Sport’.

So when the IRB Series moves Down Under at the Adelaide Sevens it must surely cause a stir, a la Wellington, with thousands wanting a piece of the action and television viewers seething with jealously that they are not present? Er, perhaps not quite.

This weekend will be my first trip to the picturesque Adelaide Oval, home of the Australian leg of the Series for three years now. So in that regard it would be churlish to throw out strong views on it without digesting it myself this weekend.

Yet from various conversations with people over the season, who have of course been to the Adelaide leg, it seemingly divides opinion. One question many ask is; why Adelaide?

South Australia bids higher

Yes, Adelaideans have a rich pedigree sport strongly emblazoned by their two Australian Rules (AFL) sides the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power. The Oval of course has a long tradition of hosting Test Cricket every summer, along with a number of One Day International matches.

But what about Rugby? Well there is no Super Rugby franchise in South Australia of course with most inhabitants probably more aware of Rugby League. So what’s the deal?

In Australia, international sporting events get given funding from state governments to go to their state. So something like the Grand Prix (held in Adelaide from 1985-1995) has competition from a few states because they all want to have it in their state. So something like Sevens effectively turns into a bidding war as the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) cannot afford to host it themselves.

So with the South Australian government throwing the most AUD to the ARU this is the primary reason for the decision. 

Andy Logan, Rugby pundit and columnist for sports opinion website ROAR, explains why many disagree with Adelaide. 

“The general feeling is one of indifference, unfortunately. This is because Adelaide is in the heart of AFL territory and most people don’t understand the difference between rugby league and rugby union for a start, let alone the intricacies of Sevens. It’s not a rugby city,” says Logan. 

“There also isn’t a rectangular stadium in Adelaide, so the Sevens is played at Adelaide Oval. This means that despite the beauty of the venue, you are miles away from the action. Combine this with a medium sized crowd and it is a very laid back vibe and perhaps not your typical Sevens party.”

One argument against this last point is that the unique nature of the IRB Series is that we have eight different and special locations each producing tournaments that bring different characteristics. Just because it isn’t a full blown Rugby razz doesn’t make it a worse event.

Pulling the tourists?

But surely it could make more sense to hold it in a location less of the beaten track? Hosting it in a more accessible location like the Sydney, Melbourne, or the Gold Coast could bring in the overseas tourists.

“If you are going to visit Australia, you want to visit the beaches, the Harbour Bridge, The Opera House, the Barrier Reef and so on. None of that is in Adelaide. Adelaide does some beautiful architecture and great wines, but it isn’t the tourist capital of Australia”, adds Logan.

“The public loves Sevens, which is another reason why it is a shame that the IRB event is held in Adelaide, away from the rugby strongholds of Sydney and Brisbane.Sevens and Tens are resurgent in Australia at the moment."

The cosmopolitan nature of Australia’s more high profile cities could be a better fit. I like the sound of Melbourne with a huge influx of South Africa, Maori, and Pacific Islanders influence guaranteed to bring a partisan vibe to a sport-mad city.

Enriched by a newly installed Super Rugby franchise breathing life into the sport, the Sevens could be another welcome addition. It all comes down to if the Victoria government want to stump up. As things stand the Australian leg runs right bang in the middle of the Super Rugby season potentially putting it in the shade, but with the IRB set to re-jig the structure of the World Series, we will see what happens.

As UR7s has reported over the last few months another tournaments are growing such as the newly installed Central Coast and Gold Coast tournaments again opening up potential new pastures. Whats stopping the Aussies following the Dubai, Hong Kong and now Vegas with a invitational event running alongside the main international action?

A Festival of Rugby to inspire the public and promote the Olympic sport of Sevens. Gold Coast’s Robina Stadium is another prospective venue that people in the game feel could be a viable option.

Missing opportunities?

This might seem an unruly attack on ole’ innocent Adelaide. For as much disquiet as there supposedly is, Adelaide by all accounts does a solid job. The locals and small but vibrant Rugby community, who don’t get to see much live rugby, tuck in and enjoy the action in a stunning location.

Adelaide is a nice size for Sevens with everyone seemingly aware of the tournament, despite the lack of advertising around the place. The word on the street is the organisers do a fantastic job, numbers are reasonable through the turnstiles and the tournament runs smoothly. But is that enough?

Although the decision to spread it to three days, with a Friday evening start, is an interesting one.

On one hand it provides a perfect post work wind-down Adelaide workers. But what about the player’s input? Having two three-dayers back-to-back, with Hong Kong Sevens beckoning the following week, is a tough ask and not something many of the coaches appreciate. 

Rugby Union has had a tough rap from certain sections of the media with viewing figures reportedly well done on Australia’s other sporting codes. The sport is slightly in the doldrums. By continuing with Adelaide, are we missing a trick and greater opportunity?

For now it is time for me to put down my judges hat, Slip-Slop-Slap some Factor 20 and enjoy another compelling leg on the Series.