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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Super Sevens Rugby to launch new format with aim of cracking US broadcast market

Game will be played in four 12-minute quarters, supporting the extra game time with expanded playing squads and unlimited substitutions

Seabelo Senatla of South Africa in action during the final against Fiji during the men's final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December 2016. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Seabelo Senatla of South Africa in action during the final against Fiji during the men's final of the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December 2016. Francois Nel / Getty Images

A new version of rugby sevens, played over 12-minute quarters, designed to fit the American broadcast market, is set for launch next year.

The organisers of Super Sevens Rugby, hope their format will become rugby’s third alternative, in the way Twenty20 has in cricket.

Although initially based in the United States, they envisage a worldwide, city-based franchise competition in the future, similar to that proposed by Gavin Hastings in Dubai last week.

Hastings, the former Scotland captain, suggested an Indian Premier League-style revamp of world sevens, with 16 independent franchises playing tournaments similar to the current World Series events.

Super Sevens’ creators will tweak the format, extending the matches from their standard 14-minute duration to an hour’s worth of entertainment, supporting the extra game time with expanded playing squads and unlimited substitutions.

This would mean the possibility of standalone, home and away fixtures, rather than a weekend-long tournament with all teams involved.

“Our goal is to launch in the USA, then expand,” David Niu, the president of Super Sevens, said.

“We believe it is the third version of rugby in much the same way that T20 cricket has now found its place in the cricket hierarchy.

“We would envisage that in time Super Sevens will be played locally in various countries around the world, with a view to presenting a Champions League-style tournament between the top cities.

“For example, Los Angeles v Beijing, New York v Sydney, Toronto v Rio, and eventually a World Cup-style international programme.”

The organisers hope to capitalise on the potential interest created by the World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, which will immediately precede their tournament launch next summer.

Players for six city franchises will initially be made up mainly of local American players.

The US finished fifth on the World Series last season, ahead of established rugby countries such as Australia, Wales and Samoa.

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Super Sevens’ organisers believe the popularity of the Collegiate Rugby Championship, which attracts around 30,000 fans over two days each years, shows rugby is an attractive option for sport in the US.

“Our format is very attractive to broadcasters and sponsors, which was a motivating factor in the genesis of Super Sevens,” Niu said.

“We believe rugby sevens is a magnificent in-arena experience, and extremely attractive media content.

“We wanted to create a model that spoke to being able to present a true city or franchise-based league, across a season schedule of stand-alone home and away fixtures. That is very difficult to do in a 14-minute game.”

Super Sevens will support both male and female professional teams, according to Jon Prusmack, the chief executive.

“We have developed a sevens game that lends itself to growth in the US and, we believe, globally,” Prusmack said.

“Super Sevens is the only way to grow the sport in the US into a major league. Each franchise has a men’s and a women’s team, with equal pay.”