Welly’ wouldn’t but Hamil­ton could

Taupo Times - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - WAR­WICK RAS­MUSSEN

OPIN­ION: It was one of the worstkept se­crets in New Zealand sport, but it was the right de­ci­sion to take the sevens away from Welling­ton and send it north to Hamil­ton.

Once the jewel in the cap­i­tal’s event crown, the sevens had with­ered away and, in the end suf­fered a slow and undig­ni­fied end.

From the year 2000 West­pac Sta­dium was a colour­ful party cen­tral, and tick­ets were sold out in min­utes. It was a golden, boozy era.

That all changed once more re­stric­tions were placed on pa­trons, ticket prices went up and peo­ple started to think ‘ac­tu­ally, this isn’t as fun as it used to be’.

And while many Welling­to­ni­ans may be glad to be rid of the sevens, they should also look back and be thank­ful for what it pro­vided for the city.

Put the boozi­ness aside for a minute. The sevens was a mar­quee event, not just for the cap­i­tal, but for the coun­try.

De­spite re­cent years it was a rag­ing suc­cess. But it was never re­al­is­tic that it could sus­tain that in­ter­est for­ever.

There’s only so many times you can slap on a su­per­hero cos­tume, drink av­er­age beer out of a plas­tic cup, and slip over on the con­course be­fore the nov­elty has worn off.

Some­times events come to a nat­u­ral end, and that’s OK.

What’s not OK is places like Welling­ton City Coun­cil pay­ing lip ser­vice to the event, talk­ing it up as a Welling­ton event only a cou­ple of months ago, then mo­ments af­ter it’s gone to Hamil­ton spin the de­ci­sion into some­thing else.

The city coun­cil, via a state­ment from mayor Justin Lester, said that it was a chance for the cap­i­tal to ‘‘re­fresh its events cal­en­dar’’ and that it was ‘‘time for the event to move on’’.

That tune cer­tainly changed in a mat­ter of weeks.

So, what of Hamil­ton tak­ing on the tour­na­ment for two years, from next year?

It’s a bold move to take on a dam­aged event, that was once such a big deal, but has of re­cent years be­come al­most a laugh­ing stock.

Hamil­ton has the abil­ity to be a great host of the sevens. It has a per­fect sta­dium for it close to the city cen­tre, a rugby-mad com­mu­nity (more so than Welling­ton), and a good pop­u­la­tion base in Waikato, Auck­land and Bay of Plenty to call on.

As long as it doesn’t try and do a Welling­ton-lite ver­sion of the sevens, and keeps ticket prices and pun­ters happy it could do well. Lock­ing in for only two years seems to be a smart move.

As a for­mer Hamil­ton City Coun­cil re­porter who worked in the era of the V8 Su­per­cars com­ing to the city, I see that the coun­cil has learned some harsh fi­nan­cial lessons and is not un­der­writ­ing that event. The pri­vate busi­ness model will shield ratepay­ers from the risk, though the coun­cil is al­low­ing use of the sta­dium.

Hamil­ton may be crow­ing about the fact they’ve got the sevens, but fans in the re­gion should re­ally hope the pow­ers that be have done it for all the right rea­sons.

* War­wick Ras­mussen is a Waikato-raised, Welling­ton­based news di­rec­tor, who still can’t de­cide which Su­per Rugby team to sup­port.

BRUCE LIM

Hamil­ton will be the new home of the World Rugby sevens se­ries.

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