Sevens to shift to Cape Town?

2013-12-03 13:12
Cape Town Stadium (File)

Cape Town - Organisers of the Port Elizabeth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, about to stage their third tournament at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this weekend, are appealing strongly to the local public for healthy attendances over the two days.

The campaign to swell the gates as much as possible is unsurprising, as they may already be swimming against a powerful tide in terms of clinging to the event after next year.

Sport24 has it on very good authority that it will be “all change” in 2015 ... with an irresistible lobby both at International Rugby Board and sponsorship level agitating for Cape Town Stadium to grab the South African baton from then onward.

As things stand, Port Elizabeth, which first hosted the Sevens in 2011 after George’s nine-year tenure, is due to retain the event until next year, after which fresh pitches will be invited.

But various factors are conspiring to make a longer hold on it by the Friendly City highly unlikely, not least the fact that long-time major sponsor Emirates Airline is recommitting to the Sevens World Series for several more years.

It is no longer the name sponsor of the SA leg, that mantle having been taken over by Cell C, but still holds that status for the Emirates and Scotland ones and remains powerfully synonymous with the World Series as a whole.

A bugbear for them is that they do not fly to either George or Port Elizabeth, and want the Sevens to go to one of their staple, direct destinations – Cape Town International Airport boasts two Emirates flights daily.

 HSBC is also known to be impatient about maximising their leveraging potential for the SA leg, which is only possible if a major centre in the country, with direct fly-in links and heaviest tourism traffic, takes over the Sevens.

 The Mother City, in its reliable summer weather-wise, fits that bill perfectly.

Making Cape Town Stadium particularly attractive is its convenient proximity to Waterfront hotels, restaurants, bars and other attractions – several rugby fields and clubs in the Green Point area also provide rich potential for tented nearby hospitality facilities and the like.

Although there were some murmurs in sections of the media when PE won the latest staging rights three years ago that WP Rugby’s pitch for the Sevens had been complacent, closer to the truth may well be the fact that there was massive political pressure at the time to give rugby, in broadest terms, a tangible lift in the Eastern Cape.

That bridge has largely been crossed now – whether PE soon surrenders the Sevens or not -- with the Kings’ spirited maiden season in Super Rugby earlier this year and rosy home gates.

Although they have since been relegated, with the Lions the returning beneficiaries in 2014, SARU has insisted a SANZAR compromise be reached to allow for the Kings’ restoration under an expanded structure in the medium term.

For the moment, PE will not go down without a fight on the World Sevens Series front.

Rian Oberholzer, managing director of Access Management, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium operator, told Sport24 on Tuesday that they were “well aware” of bigger cities or venues countrywide being keen to seize hosting rights.

“That is why we are asking the public here to vote with their feet (this weekend). People showed what the city can do in rugby terms with the way they supported the Kings.

“There are many reasons the Sevens should stay here, just one being that players have voted this one as their favourite leg of the series.”

Oberholzer, a seasoned former SARFU and SANZAR CEO, said Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium lured almost 40 000 spectators over the two days last year and the ideal this time, with realistic ticket pricing, would be close to 30 000 each day.

“I think in South Africa as a whole we haven’t quite grasped Sevens fully yet from a spectator point of view; we have mainly still been a XVs country in that regard.

“We at least have two more seasons to show what we can do (in PE) and SARU and the IRB must then decide what they want to do with the Sevens further ahead; we must use the next two (tournaments) to make it impossible to move it.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    sevens  |  rob houwing  |  rugby

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