The Olympic Sevens tournament is now well underway and marks another leap forward in the evolution of rugby.
Sports broadcaster John Inverdale believes the game could surpass the traditional 15-a-side format in popularity, with the high octane action attracting new fans to the sport.
And John Rhodes, Director of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, says that if that does happen, serious consideration should be given as to how best to physically stage Sevens’ events.
Watch a round-table discussion of the latest developments in Rugby Sevens featuring Inverdale and Rhodes here: https://youtu.be/ln8hyLLu6oo For a shorter version click here: https://youtu.be/Yw4FHk-1Lk8
Rhodes said that traditionally rugby – for entirely justifiable, sensible reasons – has largely parachuted its teams on to football pitches or built dedicated stadia that are not obviously discernable from football grounds, as he explained:
Twickenham and Murrayfield are indisputably iconic and exciting in their own ways but do they honestly stand out as venues designed specifically for the needs of rugby fans? If your answer is ‘yes’ then I can only assume that you have never bought a pint at the public bars of either.
Now that Sevens is looking like rugby’s latest success, why don’t we start to think about the real-life way it is enjoyed – quite literally – at ground level? The culture of rugby, the game and, therefore, the atmosphere is very different from almost any other sport so shouldn’t the perfect venue reflect that?
Rhodes also explained that there are numerous facets which are unique to rugby generally and Sevens specifically, and venues could reflect this by:
- The Crowd: The rugby crowd culture is British in nature and so is totally different from any US sport; people get to their seats minutes before kick-off, at half-time they go to the bar or bathroom or check their mobile/cell, and after the final whistle they leave their seat as soon as possible … or even earlier, making them largely immune to any on-pitch activity that isn’t directly related to the match. The trend across rugby, especially in Sevens, is that the crowd is even more dynamic; people go to the bar during matches, go to meet friends in different parts of the ground and generally have a good wander around. Consequently, as a minimum, venues need to make getting drinks and toilet access much easier and faster. The bathroom issue is especially true for women, as rugby crowds enjoy a very respectable division across genders.
- Team Volumes: In Sevens, there are several teams, not just two, so why not create and connect different territories and create fan bases around them. Not only does this improve the crowd spirit, it creates strong potential revenues as these are highly sponsor-able assets.
- Raising the Roof: Often roofs in venues are underused assets; the technology is there to utilise the roof as a means of amplifying sound. Whilst ‘sound sponsorship’ may be a commercial bridge too far, at the very least this gives teams the chance to intensify their territory if they’re doing well.
- Hospitality: Sevens does not lend itself especially well to traditional corporate hospitality but an open cabana would be ideal. Research definitively shows that by having a bar on an event floor, an extra GB£7 of beer per head is sold.
- Tear Up Traditional Ticketing: Whilst the purists in the crowd will want to enjoy rugby in the way they always have (so maintain a lower bowl structure for them) the more social element of the crowd will want to be more fluid. Why not create a system whereby tickets can be swapped, booked or changed every half an hour so people can move seats? This could facilitate fans wanting to support a given team or go to sit with their friends in a different part of the stadium.
The growing popularity of the sport on the back of its Olympics success could lead to purpose-built venues, such as the HOK concept design below, which is being built:
HOK is one of the industry-leading companies that is an Event Sponsor for our Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016 event, taking place at the Yokohama Arena next month.
John Rhodes, Director of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, and Chris Lamberth, Vice President, Global Sport Development, at HOK, are two of the 50+ high calibre speakers that will be imparting their invaluable knowledge during the Conference.
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