The RWC7s is kicking off now in the United States, are they ready?
The United States is hosting its first Rugby World Cup Sevens event, with the RWC7s held in San Francisco. With this an smaller event than the full XVs version of the World Cup [scheduled for Japan next year] all eyes will be on how the United States handles such an significant and popular event.
Sports play a mythical roll in the USA. American viewers are willing to poor millions of dollars into watching sports, over many channels and formats. Rugby Sevens is still a burgeoning product, but it’s appeal is growing. If the US market can be engaged in this level of competition, it could do very well for World Rugby moving forward.
With the eyes of the rugby-world watching, the United States looks to prove worthy of RWC7s world stage attention. Josh Bradham examines the US coverage
Hosting an RWC7s – it all boils down to money
As much as we love to think of our sports as separate from cash flow, that is not realistic. If the United States will be the future home for other World Cup events, it must be a lucrative operation.
The first step of the process is the sponsors. According to the Rugby World Cup Sevens page, the list of sponsorship’s is lucrative. Rugby fans will recognize the International names; DHL, AIG, and HSBC sponsorship brands that are standard in the rugby community.
— AIG Rugby (@AIGRugby) July 18, 2018
In the American sponsorship groups, there are some new names that are not common to rugby sponsorship. Budweiser and the United States Marine Corps are official sponsors for the event. Adidas should be reflected as the official kit supplier of the US Eagles and; while this might be expected, the city of San Francisco are as well backing the tournament.
Some great avenues for exposure, yet it is disappointing that only one branch of the military is involved as a sponsor, since all branches play the sport heavily. Fortunately for organizers, a major sponsor like Budweiser really helps solidify the list. They are a major sponsor of the NFL and have successfully just sponsored the Football World Cup.
Although, in relation to the sports relationship – they are the only alcohol company sponsoring the event (in respect of the sports ideals).
From the outside, there needed to be more American sponsorship brands involved (more than the few that are promoted). Financial institutions while uninteresting, make up a large portion of US sports sponsorship names. Look around at the stadiums and events like Golf, and corporations are prevalent. However, the only bank on the list is HSBC [a foreign business, not one of the major US institutions].
I believe the vast resources of the United States could have found better sponsorship avenues than what was obtained. A widely accepted brand-name needed to be identified alongside the RWC7s. That being said, this is the best list of sponsors for any major event in US Rugby history.
Facilities well up to World Rugby standard
USA rugby selected a beautiful stadium for the rugby sevens tournament. AT&T Park (see main photo) is normally the home of the ‘San Francisco Giants’ Major League Baseball team. With a capacity of 41,503 it stands to be one of the largest rugby events in the United States – as big in capacity as Soldier Field, if the harbourside of the field had a fully seated area.
The pitch is expected to be of high quality, as is the norm with MLB parks. A grass turf is being laid over the baseball diamond, and is expected to give the field a unique and individual vista.
The backdrop for this event is absolutely astounding, with views of the famous San Francisco icon, the Golden Gate Bridge.
We're LIVE for game one of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 as the women's pre-round of 16 kicks off in San Francisco!
— Rugby World Cup Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) July 20, 2018
There are very few stadiums in the USA that would have looked better than the one they picked. However, a contrasting option may have been the Los Angeles Coliseum. The former Olympic venue may have also presented the game in an appealing setting. A covered stadium was not required, with the schedule matched to the United States summer.
The open field of AT&T Park should bring wide praise from International visitors.
Attendance dependant of US sports fans appetite
This is, in my opinion, the most concerning point of the entire event. American fans are very inconsistent their attendance of rugby events. They can either sell out an International match at Soldier Field, with 61,500 seats ‘sold out’ for the USAvNZL fixture in November, 2014. Or US rugby fans barely manage 5,000 fans at other venues – see the Major League Rugby grand final fixture.
No one wants to see a half full stadium for this premier event. The success of the event is largely based on the number of people that will attend the matches over the coming days. Will the appetite of US sports fans meet World Rugby expectations?
Last Word on Rugby believe the 100,000 tickets sold are likely to be filtered as; a quarter on Friday, with possibly a 40/60 split of the balance, over Saturday and Sunday. With the major finals being played Sunday, if the weather is perfect, fans could ‘walk up’ in droves.
But that aspect of the weekend, is still to be proven.
US Network Television coverage
In the United States, coverage of the event is positive. All of the events will be carried by NBC’s suite of networks.
These range from the Olympic Channel and NBC sports Network to prime time coverage on NBC itself. This will provide much more coverage than is the norm in the United States, and will hopefully contribute to the success of the event.
Newspapers have promoted the tournament, and United States promotion; especially on the West Coast, has been wide. Some hardcore fans will fly in for the weekend, so similar to the revenue injection that all of the HSBC Sevens Series receive, San Francisco will be humming with ‘rugby chat’ all week long!
World Rugby are also providing a wide range of channels and formats to view, listen and continue to be updated by the minute. This begins on their Match Center webpage. From that site, viewers can read a Live Blog, watch a livestream [depending on geography] and have links to coverage. Facebook ‘live’ is a popular channel, and match replays are available on the World Rugby YouTube channels.
United States can prove ability to hold future events
As the United States looks to prove worthy of RWC7s world stage attention, it will also be judged by stakeholders in rugby (and other International competitions). Eventually the United States must be in consideration for a XVs World Cup, but graduated success on a smaller stage of the Rugby Sevens three-day event, must be obtained.
And with the 2026 FIFA Football World Cup to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, the momentum built from the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and following events, will all be steps towards larger, International events.
Rugby is looking to make a bigger dent in the US sports market, and success by the two US Eagles teams would build support for Sevens – and bring benefit to the game as a whole.
“Main Photo Credit”
Embed from Getty Images