A new club rugby tournament involving sides from around the world "is to be launched this summer" in a bid to capitalize on the sport's increasing global appeal, according to Robert Kitson of the London GUARDIAN. Super Rugby side Auckland Blues, the Western Province Stormers, the ACT Brumbies and teams from Russia and the U.S. "are set to join four English clubs in the inaugural event at Twickenham" on Aug. 17-18. A total of 12 seven-a-side teams will initially be involved, with the matches televised by BT Sport, which is "poised to take over the broadcasting of the English domestic game from Sky." The tournament "reflects the rising interest in sevens as it prepares for Olympic inclusion" in '16. Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said, "It'll be 12 teams this year, but I expect it to expand." No title sponsors have yet been confirmed, but McCafferty "is convinced that the idea will prove popular with rugby fans." McCafferty: "We think some of the clubs and provincial sides will prove big attractions at that time of year, and we feel the market is going to grow" (GUARDIAN, 5/7).
Events and Attractions
UEFA "has urged German fans desperate for tickets" for the Champions League Final "not to buy from unofficial suppliers" on the Internet, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Borussia Dortmund said that it "had received more than half a million applications for their allocation of just over 24,000 tickets for the final against German rivals Bayern Munich in London on May 25." Demand "also far exceeded supply for Bayern fans and tickets are being advertised online" for €1,800 ($2,400) and more. A UEFA statement said, "UEFA urges fans to ignore all such offers and refrain from attempting to buy such tickets as all such offers are not authorized by UEFA and may be fraudulent." Website Viagogo, which offers fans a chance to buy and sell unwanted tickets, said that "demand had quadrupled after the all-German final was confirmed." Viagogo Business Development Head Steve Roest said, "There was an influx of Spanish fans who wanted to sell tickets" (REUTERS, 5/8).
EUROPA LEAGUE: In London, Matt Hughes reported Chelsea’s ticketing problems before next week’s Europa League final against Benfica have "been exacerbated by a row with the club’s players over their individual allocations." The club has expressed its disappointment with UEFA "at being given only 9,800 tickets for the final at the Amsterdam ArenA" and is now "facing a backlash from the dressing room at what the players consider to be their own paltry allocation." Chelsea’s senior players committee has "made representations to the club about increasing the players’ allowance." Chelsea is "relatively relaxed about the players’ complaints," with sources insisting that "they are never happy with what they are given." The club is "also wary of antagonising fans who have been unable to buy tickets for the sold-out final by giving huge numbers to the players" (LONDON TIMES, 5/8).
Beach volleyball "could return to London this summer" after the capital was named as a host for one of the women's Int'l Tour competitions, according to Nick Hope of the BBC. However, Volleyball England insists that it still needs "significant commercial backing to make the event a reality." The sport was set in Horse Guards Parade for the Olympics, "but would most likely be held at the Score Centre in Waltham Forest," Aug. 14-18. England Volleyball President Richard Callicott said, "We want to capitalize on London 2012. However, just because it's in the calendar doesn't mean it will definitely happen. We need to find the funding because England has no spare money." With fresh sand costing around £40,000 ($62,260) "and other costs for temporary stands, security and athlete accommodation," organizers estimate hosting the competition in the north east of the city would require a more manageable £500,000 ($778,250). "We've had a Dutch company offering €100,000 ($131,770) and FIVB (volleyball's int'l governing body) will pick up some costs, but that leaves a lot of money, which is where the commercial side comes in" (BBC, 5/7).
The WTA awarded Singapore its season-ending championships for five years beginning in ‘14, culminating an 18-month search for the next host city, according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS DAILY. Singapore was selected from an initial group of 40. The final cities were Singapore; Tianjin, China; and Monterrey, Mexico. The championships will grow in Singapore to include doubles championships, a stars of tomorrow event and fan engagement activities stretching over 10 days. WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster said her hope is to mimic the type of atmosphere the Super Bowl enjoys in the week leading up to the game. Singapore also adds to the WTA’s Asia–Pacific strategy, she said, making the region the top one now in women’s tennis. Allaster declined to disclose financial terms, but said the prize money would increase to $6.5M next year from $6M this year in Istanbul. Lagardere unit World Sports Group advised the Singapore bid (SPORTSBUSINESS DAILY, 5/8). REUTERS' Patrick Johnston reported the event "will take place at the Sports Hub complex," which is due to be finished by the first quarter of '14 at a cost of S$1.3B ($1.05B). The complex "will feature a 55,000-seater stadium with retractable roof, a 13,000 indoor stadium, aquatics center and water sports center." The venue "could be key for sports and entertainment businesses to tap into the lucrative southeast Asian market with Singapore's low crime rate and overall ease of doing business a rarity amongst nearby nations" (REUTERS, 5/8).
FOLLOWING THE LEADER: The BBC's Bill Wilson wrote "the move to Singapore follows other big name sports events being held there," including the F1 Grand Prix, golf's HSBC Women's Champions and the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Allaster said the winning bid team was "very entrepreneurial" and shared the WTA's thoughts about making the championships a leisure and lifestyle event, as well as a tennis one. Analyst Ben Heyhoe Flint, head of Asia-Pacific at Fuse, Omnicom Media Group's sports and entertainment division, called the announcement "a feather in the cap" for Singapore. He said, "It is really impressive that they have managed to get this in the bag... it is the year-end event of a major sport" (BBC, 5/8).
French Open organizers "banned John Tomic from the tournament, following the lead of the ruling body of men's tennis," which Wednesday "banned him indefinitely." The father of Australian Bernard Tomic "is due to appear in court in Madrid next Tuesday on assault charges for allegedly breaking the nose of his son's hitting partner." An ATP statement said, "Following last week's incident in Madrid concerning John Tomic, and the ensuing investigation, Mr. Tomic's credential privileges have been suspended at all ATP tournaments until further notice." It is likely that Tomic Sr. "will also be banned by Wimbledon organizers" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 5/9). ... Welterweight boxer Manny Pacquiao will face Brandon Rios of the U.S. on Nov. 24 at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China. It will be Pacquiao's first bout since he was defeated by Juan Manuel Marquez in December (MUNDO DEPORTIVO, 5/8). ... Serie A side AC Milan will join Bayern Munich, Man City and Sao Paulo "in a friendly tournament in Germany in July" (FOOTBALL ITALIA, 5/7). ... The Chinese and Australian men's basketball teams "will play a four-match Sino-Australia Challenge series in June as part of a cooperation deal for the next four years" (XINHUA, 5/8).