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How do you solve a problem like the Sevens?


How do you solve a problem like the Sevens?

How do you solve a problem like the Sevens?

The only downside of an otherwise enjoyable weekend in Sydney calling the HSBC World Sevens was the lingering embarrassment over what had taken place in Wellington the week before.

The stands at Allianz Stadium were never quite full… it was just too hot for the punters to spend extended periods of time in the full sunlight, but they tell us all the tickets had been sold, and the atmosphere was really good.

Inevitably there were plenty of wisecracks about the dismal turnout in Wellington, and a few calls for the tournament to be shipped, not just out of Wellington, but New Zealand altogether.

I can’t imagine World Rugby would want a series without one of their flagship nations involved, and surely the New Zealand Union won’t want to relinquish the event altogether. Surely not.

But it’s pretty obvious the Wellington Sevens needs to be taken out the back and shot, and a new venue, and a new look tournament found elsewhere, before New Zealand does lose it to someone else.

Everyone and their dog has had a say on what killed the Wellington event, but it is worth going over the reasons, so as to avoid it happening in its next incarnation.

1) The party got out of hand. An electric, happy atmosphere turned into a drunken rabble, no atmosphere, just a white noise, complete with too much spewing, fighting, passing out, and obnoxious behaviour.

2) Wellington got greedy. The prices went up for tickets, accommodation, and the stadium food and drink. Nearby bar owners set out to tip as much booze down peoples throats as possible, often succeeding in getting them to stay all day and maybe not even turn up at the Stadium at all. I went to breakfast at one café one year where the proprietor had upped the prices by 20%, using the excuse of the holiday surcharge, which I had to remind him was 15%.

3) The Fun Police. Yes, they were acting in accordance with new legislation, but that went over the top as well.

4) The Nines. Not exactly a raging success, but enough to send a few thousand to Eden Park, instead of splashing out on the trip to Wellington.

5) The boredom factor. Wellington did well to be so popular for so long, but in a short space of time it was no longer hot to go to the Sevens, and more cool to bag it, and that spread like wildfire.

6) Star quality, or the lack of it. Not convinced about the lack of household names argument, because even with SBW and the Ioane brothers in the AB Sevens last year the crowds were small.

7) The ticketing system.

8) The Stadium. Impossible to break up into zones in the way Hong Kong is, because of its shape and the fact that everyone has to use the concourse, drunk or sober.

So, hands up who wants it now?

Dunedin is the name most bandied about, and Forsyth Barr would be great, but it won’t work because the tournament dates can’t be shifted, the scarfies aren’t back and there is not enough accommodation in Dunedin to cope with an influx, thanks to Dunedin City Council blocking the new hotel.

Forget Eden Park. Just forget it.

To me there are two or three possibilities, Waikato and North Harbour, and maybe New Plymouth.

It has to be in a metropolitan area for the numbers.

More importantly they are rectangular shaped Stadiums that could easily be cut into four zones.

One for the corporates, and the prime seating.

Two, the party zone… and let it be a party zone. The Western end of Waikato Stadium, or the Southern end at Albany, both of which could have their own entry/exit so people can do what they like without bothering the more subdued fans.

Three, the mixed zone, more for families, with a few restrictions on alcohol consumption.

Four, the Rugby Zone. The Northern end of Albany would be perfect. The deal being rugby clubs are given a knock down rate, including a dedicated bus ride there and back for a mix of adult and junior members.

I like North Harbour Stadium for it. There is plenty of parking, it has the facilities for the players including the practice grounds, good access via the bus route, and they have room around the top path for plenty of different food outlets, so as not to just serve up the usual overpriced stadium rubbish.

One thing’s for sure, you can’t just take the Wellington model and stick it somewhere else.

Because it’s damaged beyond repair.