Wellington's hospitality sector could rescue flailing Sevens

6:38 pm on 19 September 2016

The Rugby Union has been working with local bars and restaurants in Wellington as it looks at ways it can revitalise the annual Sevens tournament before tickets go on sale next week.

A fan in the stands makes a call.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Interest in the once popular tournament has been waning in recent years.

The Westpac Stadium was never more than half-full during this year's tournament, with about 15,000 people attending on each of the two days - well below the 34,500 capacity - and a bottom-line loss of around $300,000.

Ticket sales have lagged considerably since 2012, and Wellington's hospitality sector believes in order to bring the sevens back to its wildly popular zenith, the organisers need to broaden its appeal.

Ideas proposed by hospitality groups include integrating the Sevens with the city's food and craft beer culture, having live music playing around the city, and having local bars act as "bases" for each of the 16 teams.

President of the Restaurant Association Mike Egan said local bars and restaurants would jump at the chance to be directly involved with the tournament.

"If you go to stadiums overseas, you'll see in big events, they use a lot of local brands to enhance the experience. They might come and say they want a bit more of a tailored approach - a one-off sort of thing.

"Definitely, I think there would be some brands that would look to go down there and try and enhance the experience."

Mr Egan said there was a delicate balance to strike between cultivating a festive, irreverent atmosphere, while still maintaining appeal to families or rugby-lovers.

Wellington Sevens general manager Steve Dunbar said a range of entertainment, and food and beverage options were being considered, which would appeal to all fans - whether they were eight or 80.

"We're continuing to talk to our fans and partners about what they'd like to see over the sevens weekend. At this stage it's simply too early to say what we'll have to add to the action on the field, but we're confident that wherever we end up, there will be something for everyone."

The Rugby Union declined to comment, saying it was "keeping its powder dry", and that any changes would be revealed when tickets go on sale on September 28th.