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World Rugby to transform Sevens World Series

Featured image credit: World Rugby

World Rugby has today (Wednesday) set out plans to revamp its Sevens World Series by seeking to reinforce the ‘sportainment’ aspect of the format of the sport and create gender parity.

The remodelled Sevens World Series will include seven festival style events, in seven global destinations, across seven months, featuring the best 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams. It is set to kick off in December 2023.

In a move designed to attract a younger, more diverse and global fanbase while generating greater revenues to reinvest in players and teams, the transformed Series hosting model will see World Rugby EventsCo assume greater responsibility for the delivery of the events, working in partnership with host organisations.

Following a record breaking year for women’s rugby, the Series will fully embrace gender parity with all seven rounds featuring combined men’s and women’s events. The 2022-23 season, which commenced for the men in Hong Kong on November 4-6 and continues with a combined men’s and women’s event in Dubai this weekend, features 11 rounds in total. However, four of these events – Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Singapore and London – are men’s rounds only.

Following consultation with the participating nations, the men’s Series will reduce from 16 to 12 teams, aligning with the Olympic competition model and bringing the number of men’s and women’s teams even, while allowing for more optimal match scheduling opportunities, according to World Rugby.

An annual ‘Grand Finale’ event will take place in the seventh round, which will see the top eight ranked teams after six rounds compete to be crowned Series champions, while the teams ranked ninth to 12th will join the top four ranked teams from the Challenger Series in a relegation play-off competition which will see four teams secure their places in the next edition of the Series.

The four unsuccessful teams will go into regional competitions to qualify for the next Challenger Series, which comprises of 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams competing in the second level of international rugby sevens.

In another ground-breaking development, men’s and women’s teams will receive equal participation fees, with a 70% uplift in World Rugby’s investment in participation fees in the new model.

World Rugby said the development of the new Series follows a “widespread and comprehensive” consultation process, involving representatives from participating teams, existing tournament hosts, player welfare representatives and fans.

Discussions are ongoing with potential host destinations, following what the sport’s world governing body claims is unprecedented hosting interest. Confirmed hosts, competition dates and a new brand identity will be announced in the coming months, with the first edition of the remodelled Series to run from December 2023 through June 2024.

World Rugby chief executive, Alan Gilpin, said: “The reimagined Sevens World Series will be a game-changer for the global growth of the game. Research insights have demonstrated that sevens plays a vital role in reaching and engaging new rugby fans, particularly in emerging rugby nations and with younger audiences.

“World Rugby is fully committed to the sustainable growth, innovation and success of rugby sevens as a highly impactful and successful Olympic sport with a bright future.

“We have consulted widely with a multitude of stakeholders to achieve our shared aim of making rugby more relevant and accessible to more young people, more of the time, and in doing so growing the reach of rugby while ensuring player welfare is sacrosanct and further cementing the successful positioning of rugby sevens on the Olympic sport programme.”

World Rugby chief revenue and fan engagement officer, Richard Heaselgrave, added: “The simple aim of the remodelled Series is to grow the game by reaching more fans, generating greater revenues to reinvest in performance, and deliver bigger, better and more engaging and entertaining event experiences for fans in the stadium, interacting online or watching on broadcast around the world.

“Fans will be at the heart of the action as the Series will chase the sun, mixing the best of sport and entertainment to create unmissable live event experiences with a festival atmosphere in seven iconic global destinations, which will broaden rugby sevens’ appeal and attract new audiences.

“We will continue to build the Series into a global sports and entertainment brand by widening our event experience offering. The Series has a great opportunity to develop world class events that integrate top level sport, live music, culinary experiences, retail, art, culture and mass participation, providing fans with the flexibility to watch, play and engage across a range of event experiences.”