So much more than just a rugby tournament, Dubai Sevens is set to be bigger than ever as the profile of the sport continues to grow
Things have changed since Dubai hosted its first rugby sevens tournament 15 years ago. Now part of a world series that will be broadcast to more than 145 countries, Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens is an event that will attract more than 100,000 visitors this week. Fans will arrive at Sevens Stadium to watch world-class sport but also enjoy bands playing at the Rugby Rock concert in the evening. It is a true celebration of rugby, a fitting way to mark what has been another big year for the sport.
Huge crowds packed out London’s Twickenham Stadium for the season finale, and rugby sevens was one of the highlights of this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. With the sport coming to the Olympic Games for the first time in 2016, Donal Kilalea, CEO of Dubai Sevens organisers Promoseven Sports Marketing, says that the small-scale rugby game will keep on getting bigger: “The inclusion of sevens to the Olympics is a watershed, for it then will truly become a global sport with over 200 countries having an opportunity to take part and win medals.”
Will the United Arab Emirates be one of those teams? Well, according to Kilalea, the future is bright as attempts are being made to get more young people engaged in sevens. “UAE Rugby Federation is making large efforts to introduce rugby to the schools,” he said. “This is working and while it will take time, it is the future of the game.”
With the Games taking place in 2016, perhaps time isn’t on the UAE’s side, but the good news for the rest of the teams and the fans is that rugby sevens is more competitive than ever. South Africa prevented New Zealand from winning Commonwealth gold for the first time ever, while Fiji won the first round of the HSBC Sevens in Australia.
“The game is very competitive,” says Kilalea. “And will become more so as more countries are able to have funding for training and coaching. Kenya is a prime example of a country that continues to do well along with Fiji.”
Yet Dubai Sevens isn’t all about men’s internationals. There’s a women’s competition, too, while more than 200 teams have been invited to compete in more than 14 tournaments, making it the biggest event yet. Kilalea says: “Each year, we set ourselves a challenge, to be better and to ensure that we continue to attract the many nationalities that live in or are visiting Dubai and ensuring that it is a flagship event for Dubai.” It certainly is.
Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2014 takes place at Sevens Stadium from 4-6 December.