Switcheroo could be Sydney schedule solution

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A Sevens World Series switcheroo could solve Australia’s Sydney Sevens scheduling problem, ARU CEO Bill Pulver says.

In the first year of a concurrent men’s and women’s tournament, the national body came under fire for scheduling the women’s Cup quarter-finals, including their Rio champion Australian team, outside the main stadium.

Australia and the other top eight nations played those finals on Kippax Oval, across the road from Allianz, with a temporary stand of roughly 600 people watching on.

Under the World Rugby tournament agreement, the ARU were unable to shift any of the men’s pool matches to the outside ground, with a stipulation that all men’s matches were played on Allianz.

The Sydney Sevens tournament contract is in its second of a four-year deal, making it difficult to arrange any scheduling changes.

The host body originally wanted to run both tournaments over three days, but with Wellington just a week earlier, the turnaround for men’s players was considered too short.

Pulver said swapping the tournament order was an option to be considered in the future, to allow the men’s and women’s competitions to be run over the entire three-day tournament, but the ARU would need international cooperation.

“That's one option - clearly that requires the cooperation of NZ and World Rugby so I'm certainly confident we'll be able to address it by next year and there's a couple of options to how we could deal with it,” he said.

Other avenues include using the SCG, pending agreements with Cricket Australia and the SCG Trust which will be dealing with an expanded Big Bash League in 2018, or upgrading Kippax’s facilities to make it a less temporary setup.

Pulver pointed to the Olympics as an example of the three-day format, and envisaged a Sunday where all finals would be played.

“Friday's a difficult day to sell and yet we've had a raft of really good women's pool games. So, if you only had a few women's pool games and a few men's pool games on Saturday and Sunday would be cracking days and the crowd would get full value for their investment,” he said.

Aside from scheduling issues, the main challenge for the ARU with the Sevens is to ensure its longevity remains, with Wellington a cautionary tale for how quickly tournaments can lose their novelty.

“It is an example of how you can't rest on your laurels, you have to keep re-energising your event and keep it fresh - Bill Pulver

“I suspect it would have been the most complex event, logistically, I have ever seen.

“It actually blows my mind. I'm not sure there would have ever been a more complex event to run and it went off without a hitch."