Welly’ wouldn’t but Hamilton could
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.
Hamilton will be the new home of the World Rugby sevens series.