Thoughts on the Canada Sevens, Library Square Fan Zone and University Sevens
[ed. comments below]
posted March 5 2016
I think the general consensus from everyone I've talked to is that the Canada Sevens main event was very professionally run. It seems to be head and shoulders above any rugby event run in this country in terms of management and promotion. There were a few minor quibbles, our BCRN 7s correspondent thought they could do better with the announcer, the surface was slippery as we all saw players lose their footing during the day, and my personal gripe, no beer access in the media room, but most of that is minor, well except the beer access part. Players adapted to the turf as they taped up forearms, elbows and shins anticipating the carpet burns, it was black tape on the back of the leg to prevent hamstrings and white tape on the front to avoid turf burn.
So well done to the Canada Sevens - Vancouver organizers. In the media section we dealt with Hill + Knowlton Strategies who bill themselves as "Canada’s leading strategic communications consultancy". I was impressed, they were smooth, efficient and professional. The key to success in this event was putting together a team of professional service-providers who brought top-level expertise in their respective fields.
Next year can be even better, maybe open up the full top section to get more fans in, a more co-ordinated effort with local businesses for after-tournament specials and events. Which brings us to the next point, the Library Square Fan Zone.
Did anyone go to the Official Fan Zone? Not many by my estimates, I went there Friday night and Sunday afternoon and both times it was virtually empty. It looked like a cross between a construction zone and a detention centre - it's not surprising that people preferred to enjoy a drink inside the pub rather than in the damp tent city outside. I was expecting something akin to a patio at a bar, an extension of the pub offering the same conveniences and ambience. The fan zone had construction fencing around it with security guards wanting to wristband the few people electing to enter. You had to buy tickets to buy drinks. It didn't work and needs to be rethought for next year. Another gripe with Library Square, why not show rugby inside on the TVs? I had lunch there on Sunday and was told I had to go outside to watch the live stream of the 7s, why not inside where everyone was sitting in the warmth. I scanned the room and everyone looked like they were from the Canada Sevens and no one was watching the hockey and box lacrosse playing on the TV. If you're going to bill yourself as the official home of rugby then put rugby on the TVs especially during the Canada Sevens event. I was in Doolin's the night before and there was rugby on TV and memorabilia on the walls, that felt more like a rugby environment to me.
Now the University 7s, how many went out to Burnaby on the Friday? The BCRU said it was free but Rugby Canada were charging $10 to get in - and what were they providing for that - not much. You pretty well had to guess who was playing, no signage, no announcer and no bar. The bar was shutdown likely due to the presence of the U18 tournament taking place at the same venue. This clearly was not a spectator friendly event yet Rugby Canada thought that charging $10 admission was acceptable. It's very clear that Rugby Canada are not running the Canada Sevens when you look at the effort put out here. The University 7s should be a standalone marquee event not an afterthought in the shadow of the Canada Sevens, especially when it overlaps with the main event. The Americans have this one right with their CRC, College Rugby Championships, which is treated as one of their premier events in the rugby season, it's even broadcast by NBC.
As for Canada's performance at the Sevens event - a mixed review. It scripted well winning some silverware even if it was for 9th place. They only lost one game to Wales but the most disappointing result was not being able to beat Russia by 30 to advance to the Cup round. Australia had given Canada the chance, reducing Wales +54 differential to +29, a figure that was attainable based on Russia's previous games. Canada were +14 at the half and a +16 second half would seal the deal. I think Canada's inability to produce a +16 second half in that game highlights their problems in cracking the top 8 and perhaps securing an Olympic berth: consistency and precision. They obviously need a speed merchant on the team, someone who can turn a break into a long range score. Hirayama did his best impression of that role this tournament but his main skills lie elsewhere in setting up the plays and being the on-field general. Canada's defence tightened up throughout the tournament which is encouraging. Canada's main obstacle to reaching the Olympics remains Samoa, they finished 5th in the tournament. Canada's next tournament is Hong Kong where they are in a pool with Fiji, Wales and Korea. Wales again stand in their way of making the Cup round, how Canada responds in that rematch will tell us a lot about how ready they are for the June repechage tournament and a trip to the Olympics.
Still it's good to reflect on the Vancouver 7s and congratulate each other as part of the BC rugby community for supporting the event, for being the core group at the inaugural event and showing the world that Vancouver, BC is a world class hosting destination. This event will likely grow to encompass more non-rugby people who are intrigued by the action and entertainment at BC Place, how that increased exposure for the 7s version of the game translates into growth of the XVs game in BC and Canada remains to be seen.