New Zealand sevens set to stay in Wellington

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New Zealand Rugby (NZR) said Thursday that the Wellington sevens was set to stay in the capital for another three years, despite flagging attendances.

Once regarded as Wellington’s biggest party, this year’s two-day event in late January attracted fewer than 30,000 fans despite big-name players and the sport’s inclusion in this year’s Rio Olympics.

There was speculation NZR wanted to move their leg of the World Sevens Series to another city to stem financial losses.

But the organisation instead confirmed Wellington’s place on the sevens calendar was safe, at least for the next few years, in a one-paragraph statement issued Thursday.

“New Zealand Rugby has provisionally confirmed Wellington as host location for the New Zealand round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for three more years pending the finalisation of contracts with all partners,” it said.

Various theories have been put forward for the event’s demise, including competition from the rugby league nines in Auckland and a perception of staleness after 16 years.

Police had also become weary of spectators’ alcohol-fuelled antics at Westpac Stadium, prompting organisers to pursue a more family-friendly demographic.

At its peak, the sevens would sell out both days within minutes in the 35,000-capacity stadium as people clamoured to an event known for fans in fancy dress and heavy drinking.

Organisers had hoped a feel-good factor generated by sevens’ Olympic debut this year — where the Kiwis are favourites for gold — would revive interest in the short form of rugby union.

But even the presence of cross-code superstar and double World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams in a New Zealand shirt failed to draw more punters.

 

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