Hast­ings calls for IPLstyle sev­ens fran­chises

The National - News - - SPORT - PAUL RADLEY

The World Sev­ens Se­ries should be re­placed by a world­wide, fran­chise-based tour­na­ment, in­clud­ing a side based in Dubai. That is the view of Gavin Hast­ings, the for­mer Scot­land cap­tain, who be­lieves an Indian Premier League-style fran­chise com­pe­ti­tion could trans­form the game.

Hast­ings says the new con­cept could help speed the spread of the game in new ter­ri­to­ries, such as the UAE, as well as ease the fi­nan­cial bur­den on smaller unions like Samoa.

He pro­poses a 14 or 16 team com­pe­ti­tion, play­ing ap­prox­i­mately 10 events per sea­son at cities around the globe.

Each side, in­de­pen­dently owned by a cor­po­rate backer, could have up to 25 play­ers drawn from “a global mar­ket­place” on pro­fes­sional con­tracts, with a set limit per squad to come from each coun­try.

The idea would limit the num­ber of tour­na­ments played by in­ter­na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive sides.

“Dubai could play Cape Town, and against Syd­ney, and I think that is the way for­ward,” Hast­ings said in Dubai yes­ter­day.

“You could still have the World Cup Sev­ens, the Olympics and the Com­mon­wealth Games, so there are still three op­por­tu­ni­ties in every four-year cy­cle to play for your in­ter­na­tional side.

“I gen­uinely be­lieve that, whether it be a lo­cal here, or an en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­pat busi­ness­man, would want a side that would be the best.

“Do away with the World Se­ries, and have an IPL-style [com­pe­ti­tion] that trav­els to all these cities.”

The 2017 Emi­rates Air­line Dubai Rugby Sev­ens, start­ing on Novem­ber 30, will be the 48th stag­ing of the event. For years, the win­ning teams in the main event were club sides, be­fore the World Sev­ens Se­ries, played for by coun­tries, was for­malised in 1999.

Hast­ings be­lieves a fran­chise rep­re­sent­ing Dubai, for ex­am­ple, would be eas­ier for peo­ple from the city to iden­tify with than the cur­rent for­mat.

“It might only be for six months of the year, but then you could go and grow the game in these coun­tries,” Hast­ings said. “The guys that play in Dubai could go out into the schools, or­gan­ise mini tour­na­ments un­der­neath these tour­na­ments.

“Your guys are based here. You sign them up, like in IPL, for a few months and they have a three-year con­tract. I gen­uinely think that is the way for­ward for rugby sev­ens.”

Hast­ings be­lieves the new fran­chise com­pe­ti­tion would help sev­ens play­ers im­prove their mar­ket value, as well as ease the fi­nan­cial bur­den on na­tional gov­ern­ing bod­ies.

“At the mo­ment, the Samoans, for in­stance, can barely af­ford to bring a sev­ens side out, be­cause there is no money in Samoa,” Hast­ings said.

“Samoan rugby play­ers are fan­tas­tic. If you have 16 fran­chises, and there were two Samoans per squad play­ing reg­u­larly, there is no [fi­nan­cial] bur­den on Samoan rugby. Then they could come to­gether for Olympics, Com­mon­wealth and World Cup.”

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