Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Why sevens is a snore

Sonny Bill Williams and Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams and Ardie Savea. Photo / Getty Images

Half a game, half an audience and a full yawn.

There seems to be an assumption we should like sevens because it's an offshoot of the national game or because it's seen as more fashionable now it's been introduced into the Olympics at Rio.

The downturn in ticket sales for the Wellington tournament signals a different scenario.

New Zealand Rugby boss Steve Tew sounded remarkably accepting of the downturn in spectator interest and the lack of pulling power from new faces like Sonny Bill Williams.

The 15 year history of the competition has subsided from the sellout crowds which lasted until 2011 to the 8000 spectators who have bought tickets to the Cake Tin this weekend.

Tew thought that figure might double with reasonable ticket prices and packages but acknowledged that might be more hope than a realistic expectation.

Are we surprised at the lack of interest in the abbreviated game?

Those of my vintage will not shed any tears while those party animals who liked the mix of costume, beer and sevens have been turned off because of the restrictions on their entertainment.

If alcohol turnover is a priority when watching sport then the Cake Tin may still be on your sporting bucket list, as long as you have enough disposable income and plenty of endurance.

Sevens and its element of rowdy behavior is not going to attract an older demographic or families for a multitude of reasons:

• An atmosphere of beer swilling fans and their marginal language content is no stage for families or more senior sedate customers.
• The monotony of sevens is hard to take over two days.
• That lack of interest continues until the semis and final so why get involved in the entrée when the roast and veges are some way in the distance.
• It is cricket season, it's summer not the time for any version of footy even sevens let alone Super rugby which resumes its bloated itinerary next month.

Sevens shows off players' great skill levels, their pace and their fitness. It appeals to a select audience who don't mind the chess-like moves then one break leading to tries but those devotees are dwindling.

It's becoming an acquired choice for peoples' entertainment dollar rather than a lemming-like popularity rush.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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