World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper says the commercial arguments to combine men and women’s Sevens tournaments are growing, as Sevens star Charlotte Caslick calls for a scheduling shakeup.
Sydney was the first World Series tournament where both men’s and women’s games were played over a three-day format, with previous tournaments playing the competitions back-to-back over three or four days.
Even with the newly integrated format, the women and men were still staged as largely separated competitions, with the women playing mainly in the morning and the men in the evening.
Broadcasters play a big part in the tournament scheduling, with that and other commercial interests influencing the fixtures, as well as logistics and mandatory time between games being considered.
Many hosts have been reluctant to take on a women’s leg, due to the costs and the lack of compensation through sponsorship, with the men’s and women’s tours sponsored separately.
World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper said the women’s game was gaining in the commercial stakes though, moving beyond just an idealistic notion of parity.
“Certainly the sponsors are very keen, we've got a new sponsor here Capgemini that are a global sponsor that are very keen that the women are well represented,” he said at the Sydney 7s.
“There's a commercial push, not just a moral desire to get the women out there, a commercial belief that it's good for business.”
Certainly, there was interest in the women’s competition in Sydney, with an average audience of 62,000 tuning into the women’s finals and 70,000 tuning into the men’s knockouts.
Though the weekend crowd of 54,875 was down 20,000 on previous years, audiences went up 13 per cent over the weekend, as the Aussie teams played their way to a double title.
Though Sydney’s format was a world first, Aussie Sevens star Charlotte Caslick said she wanted to see greater steps in that direction in the future.
“It was alright. I can't say I loved it. It was alright,” she said.
“I think we can still probably improve, I'd love to see the men and women being combined more.
“It's pretty s*** when you run out at 9 o'clock in the morning and no one's turned up yet.
“I'd love to see Sydney or the rest of the tournaments try and implement more of an (integrated) tournament.”
Gosper said World Rugby would be willing to offer extra funding for hosts who hold integrated tournaments, compensating for the extra costs incurred with effectively running two tournaments.
“We're bullish about it, know we can’t get all 10 destinations to that but we’ll push to increase that number each cycle.”
“Yes, we would incentivise them financially in some way to try and get them to combine them and in future we can look at all sorts of ways to do make than an easier proposition.
“That's the general direction of play.”
Gosper also said he was ‘open minded’ about a new venue for next year’s Australian leg, with Allianz Stadium likely to be under construction.
Newcastle and Brisbane have been among the destinations floated for a move.