Funding boost of US$2.5 million to optimise teams’ Olympic preparations for Tokyo Games
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 contingency plans progressing towards a return to action in Hong Kong and Singapore in April 2021
Events in Hamilton and Sydney will not take place in 2021 Series, returning in 2022
Supplementary competition opportunities being developed at regional and cross-regional level to provide Olympic qualified teams with further preparation in addition to Series tournaments
Rugby sevens expected to be one of the hottest tickets of the Tokyo Games, following the outstanding success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan
Health and safety of players, teams and all involved remains top priority as all stakeholders continue to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic
World Rugby has announced details of a rugby sevens investment strategy to optimise the sport’s preparation for, and participation at, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, now scheduled for July 2021.
In a significant boost to unions and players, the international federation is making a dedicated initial investment of US$2.5 million to support Olympic qualified national unions prepare for sevens’ biggest single global event, the Olympic Games.
With all sports impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the Olympic Games postponed by 12 months, the commitment is being made with the welcome support of an advancement of International Olympic Committee payments to International Federations and National Olympic Committees.
Each union that has qualified a team for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be able to apply to World Rugby for funding which can be directed towards rugby sevens squad training camps, competition support, technical and sports science and medical programmes.
The news of the funding boost comes as collaborative contingency planning for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 continues to progress with ongoing reviews into the delivery of the remaining 2021 men’s and women’s Series events and preparations towards a safe, secure and impactful return to action in line with World Rugby’s COVID-19 return to play protocols.
Following consultation and constructive dialogue with the host organisations, it has been confirmed that the combined men’s and women’s Hamilton and Sydney rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021, which were provisionally scheduled for 23-24 and 30-31 January 2021 respectively, will not take place due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decisions were taken in line with relevant government and international public health authority advice and with the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public as top priority. Both hosts are due to return to a full Series schedule beyond 2021.
World Rugby continues to work in collaboration with all host and participating unions, International Rugby Players, partners and stakeholders to closely monitor global developments with the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to work towards a return to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action, with planning ongoing towards holding events in Hong Kong and Singapore in April 2021. A further update on HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series scheduling will be given in due course.
Meanwhile, World Rugby, in full partnership with host unions, regional associations, participating unions and International Rugby Players, continues to evaluate and develop supplementary competition opportunities at regional or cross-regional level in addition to the Series to ensure that Olympic qualified teams have an appropriate amount of high-level competition opportunities, which will enable them to compete to the best of their abilities at the Games, despite the significant disruption caused across the sporting spectrum by the pandemic.
Planning for the Olympic Repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is ongoing. With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified for the Olympic rugby sevens competition in Tokyo, the remaining two women’s and one men’s spots will be determined at the final qualification event.
Rugby sevens is expected to be one of the hottest tickets of the Tokyo Games, following the record breaking success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which captured the nation’s hearts, filled stadiums and created millions of passionate new rugby fans and participants across Japan and Asia.
The inclusion of rugby sevens for the first time in the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 had a profound effect on the sport, attracting an estimated 30 million new fans globally.
World Rugby Chief Executive Brett Gosper said: “Rugby sevens is a key priority for World Rugby in our mission to grow the global game and we are pleased to be able to share details of this new investment. Combined with the ongoing contingency work on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 and a supplementary international competition strategy, this will ensure that Olympic qualified teams have the necessary training and high-level competition opportunities to optimise their performance and light up the biggest sporting stage at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“We continue to closely monitor the ongoing and dynamic global situation with COVID-19 and the health and wellbeing of the rugby community and the wider public remains sacrosanct. While it is disappointing not be able to go ahead with the Series events in New Zealand and Australia in January 2021, we are working very hard together with all host organisations, participating unions and other stakeholders to bring a safe, secure and highly impactful return to action as soon as possible and we look forward to returning to Sydney and Hamilton in the future.”
Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said: “On behalf of Rugby Australia, we want to thank World Rugby for their generous support as our teams focus on their preparation ahead of the Olympic Games in 2021. Our women’s side is desperate to defend their gold medal next year in Tokyo while our men’s side have been gradually building over the last four years, and this investment provides both programmes the opportunity to continue that development.”
Notes to editors
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is an annual multi-stop global competition that began in 1999. In 2019 World Rugby announced new-look men’s and women’s Series for a four-year cycle, including six combined events, as the women’s series increased to eight rounds for the first time in its history.
Dubai and Cape Town, alongside New Zealand, Sydney, Hong Kong and Paris were appointed to host combined men’s and women’s events. In the women’s series, the USA Women’s Sevens is hosted in Glendale, Colorado, which was the season opener in 2020 and was since moved to later in the schedule alongside the Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford, British Columbia, which is also a standalone event. The men’s Series includes standalone events in London, Los Angeles, Singapore and Vancouver, which was the last event to take place before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the 2020 season to an early conclusion.
The future of rugby sevens is bright as the short format game continues to grow, engaging and attracting ever greater global audiences. In 2019, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series saw record-breaking fan engagement figures with a year-on-year increase of 64 per cent across video views to 198 million, and the Series attracted more than 749,800 attendees to its events globally.
The growth trend continued in broadcast viewing figures with Futures Sport & Entertainment reporting a 20 per cent increase in total cumulative average audience for the year-to-date in 2020, with 13.9 million fans reached compared to 11.7 million by the same stage in 2019.
New Zealand were awarded both the women’s and men’s titles for the 2020 Series after finishing top of the standings before the pandemic interrupted the Series with five of the eight women’s rounds and six of the 10 men’s rounds successfully completed.
Olympic champions Australia finished second in the women’s Series with Canada in third. In the men’s Series, 2018 champions South Africa finished in second place with Olympic and 2019 Series champions Fiji in third. – www.world.rugby