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Rugby Sevens New Zealand event moves to Hamilton as 2017/18 schedule announced
World Rugby has announced the dates and venues for the 10 rounds of the men's 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series with the troubled New Zealand leg of the tournament moving to Hamilton from Wellington.
The schedule, announced after the current season campaign concluded with the London Sevens at Twickenham yesterday, will also accommodate the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
After 18 years of being based in the New Zealand capital, the Sevens Series’ move to FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton is the only change to the 10-round global tournament.
With the once popular Wellington event having struggled to maintain public interest over recent years, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Chief Strategy Officer Nigel Cass stated “it was time to start a new chapter for the tournament in New Zealand.
“The inclusion of sevens in the Olympic Games has introduced the sport to a new group of athletes and fans and NZR is committed to developing a strong sevens programme.”
While the sevens was a sell-out at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium in its early years, rivalling the famed Hong Kong Sevens for its festive atmosphere, interest has faded in recent times and the event racked up a significant financial deficit in the last two years.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester advised “the feedback we’d been getting from the public was that the event in Wellington seemed to have lost its allure.
“Wellingtonians have been voting with their feet in the last few years and we’ve seen the result in dwindling crowd numbers and lower ticket sales.”
By contrast, Hamilton Mayor Andrew King is confident the city will benefit from hosting the event, stating "the financial reward for the city is huge.
“Hamilton City Council is making the stadium available for a weekend where it would have been empty. There is no risk or cost or the rate payers.”
Sevens General Manager Steve Dunbar said Hamilton was the best choice for a change of venue for the New Zealand event.
He explained “we reviewed the Wellington tournament, we've spoken to a number of cities who were interested in hosting the tournament and Hamilton's come out on top. We think there's a fantastic rugby venue here, custom made to deliver rugby.
"We think we have a lot of opportunity to build the fan experience here in Hamilton. We think the tickets will be very affordable. We think we can offer more than just a rugby tournament because of the venue we've got here in Hamilton.
"Wellington had 18 fantastic tournaments, 15 of them better than we could have ever imagined.
"There was a changing in the environment. There was not one single thing that resulted in the downturn of Wellington. We've got to learn from these mistakes and bring all the good things here to Hamilton."
New Zealand Rugby has two years left on a three-year licence with World Rugby to host a leg of the series and haw partnered with Hamilton based events company 37 South, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton City Council and the Chiefs to host the tournament.
Westpac Stadium Chief Executive Shane Harmon said it had been known since February that the Sevens was doomed in Wellington, advising “it is with sadness that it comes to an end but it has not been successful for four years now.”
Wellington Mayor Lester concluded “we'll now be focused on developing new events that highlight the things we most love about our city - from our growing tech sector, our sports, our strong arts and culture scene and our world class food and drink offerings."
Action in the 2017/18 World Rugby Sevens Series will begin in Dubai on 1st and 2nd December.
Its Australian leg will be held in Sydney from 26th to 28th January while FMG Stadium Waikato will make its mark on the programme a week later.
Teams participating in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April will stop at the Hong Kong tournament first between 6th and 8th April.
The series then pauses for Gold Coast 2018, before resuming in Singapore on 28th and 29th April.
Rugby Sevens Series 2017/18 schedule:
Dubai - 1st and 2nd December
Cape Town, South Africa - 9th and 10th December
Sydney - 26th to 28th January
Hamilton - 2nd to 4th February
Las Vegas, USA - 2nd to 4th March
Vancouver, Canada - 10th and 11th March
Hong Kong - 6th to 8th April
Singapore - 28th and 29th April
Paris, France - 26th and 27th May
London, UK - 2nd and 3rd June.
The Sevens Rugby World Cup will be played in San Francisco from 20th to 22nd July.
Images: FMG Stadium Waikato (top) and crowds at past Wellington Sevens (below).
11th April 2017 - HONG KONG SEVENS CONTINUES AS THE PINNACLE OF THE SEVENS WORLD SERIES
2nd January 2017 - ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM AIMS TO BOOST ATTENDANCE AT WELLINGTON SEVENS
8th December 2016 - HAMILTON’S H3 GROUP SECURES TWO TOP NATIONAL VENUE INDUSTRY AWARDS
12th August 2016 - GROWING POPULARITY OF RUGBY SEVENS PROMPTS DEMAND FOR NEW VENUES
25th March 2016 - SECOND BIG SCREEN INSTALLED AT WAIKATO STADIUM
17th January 2016 - WELLINGTON SEVENS ORGANISERS CONFIRM ‘SLOW’ TICKET SALES
7th December 2015 - FESTIVAL ATMOSPHERE ATTRACTS CROWDS TO DUBAI SEVENS
31st July 2015 - FMG SECURES NAMING RIGHTS FOR WAIKATO STADIUM
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