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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

World Sevens Series should make way for IPL-style event, believes Gavin Hastings

Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens is the best-attended sports event of the year in the UAE, but Hastings wants to see dramatic changes to the sevens format.

The Dubai leg of the 2016 World Sevens Series was won by South Africa. Francois Nel / Getty Images
The Dubai leg of the 2016 World Sevens Series was won by South Africa. Francois Nel / Getty Images

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 have a transformative effect on 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 tournaments per season at cities around the globe.

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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. “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 edition of the competition, which is the best attended event on the annual UAE sporting landscape.

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 sides in 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. Players will make a career out of playing rugby sevens.”

Last year, Ben Ryan, the Englishman who coached Fiji to the first Olympic gold medal, suggested the Fijian sevens side should be set up as a separate commercial franchise, independent from the union.

Back then, he said only Uganda and Samoa players, among the regular series countries, were paid less than Fiji’s.

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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