Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 63
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Rugby Looks To Make U.S. Inroads With World Cup Sevens In S.F.

Rugby advocates have been promising a spike in the sport's popularity in the U.S. for a generation
Photo: IRISH RUGBY

The Rugby World Cup Sevens championships begins Friday at AT&T Park -- the "first time the event will held on U.S. soil" -- which means "moving more than 100,000 people" around S.F. for the three-day event, according to Ron Leuty of S.F. BUSINESS TIMES. Many of the same people that organized and executed Super Bowl 50 and the America's Cup in '13 are "back for the Rugby World Cup Sevens." The city's costs are "expected to be less severe with the event focused in and around the ballpark instead of multiple locations, but officials aren't disclosing many of the details around how revenue and expenses are split, including what the Giants stand to gain financially in their venue deal with the World Rugby organization." Meanwhile, brands are using the event to "catch consumers' attention." A Giants spokesperson said the event's local and international sponsors, including A-B InBev, Australian winemaker Blass and DHL, are generating "tens of millions" from collaborations. The Giants "play a major role in both sponsorships and ticket sales, which are nearing the event's 100,000-ticket goal." The event will also "provide a test for AT&T Park's field." Giants Senior VP Stephen Revetria said that the team had to go to MLB to "schedule an extended stay" away from S.F. to "allow for the restoration or complete overhaul of the field" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/18).

GADGETS & GIZMOS: Silicon Valley-based company Xperiel is bringing some virtual and augmented reality to the Rugby World Cup Sevens. “We took the jumbotron and turned it into the t-shirt cannon. If you catch a virtual t-shirt you win a regular one,” said Xperiel CEO Alex Hertel. Fans can play the AR game via the official app for the rugby tournament. Hertel hopes the rugby event will help attract more international business. Rugby World Cup GM Rosie Spaulding said the Xperiel effort, along with some new camera angles for TV and a new single elimination format are part some innovations for the U.S. tourney. “This is a new thing for us and this something we’re very excited to showcase,” said Spaulding, who was also a top exec for the S.F. host committee group for Super Bowl 50 (Mike Sunnucks, Staff Writer).

COMING TO AMERICA: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the tournament will be "another step toward establishing the sport's legitimacy" in the U.S. The Rugby World Cup Sevens comes at a "crucial moment for rugby in America, where the sport’s advocates have been promising a rugby boom for a generation." Players, coaches and organizers hope this tourney will "finally inch the sport closer to the mainstream, much the way soccer capitalized" on the '94 FIFA World Cup (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20). In London, Jack de Menezes wrote rugby has "made no secret of its desire to tap into the American market," but to stage an "entire tournament there very much feels like the trial run for the US to host a full 15-a-side World Cup in the very near future." What should stand the Rugby World Cup Sevens in "good stead is that World Rugby has altered the format this time around to increase the drama." This "cut-throat nature should suit the nation that loves to back a winner, given that the eventual champions will have to win every match they play this weekend in order to take the spoils" (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 7/16). 

CULTURE CLUB: In S.F., Steve Rubenstein noted a troupe of native Fijian performers "came to Union Square on Tuesday as part of the 'Fiji Happiness Takeover.'" Their dance was part of "several Fijian-themed events around the Bay Area this week to mark the arrival of a Fiji team that’s competing in the Rugby World Cup Sevens" (SFCHRONICLE.com, 7/18).