NZ Rugby told nine months ago that Auckland was keen on Sevens takeover

By Simon Plumb

The first day of this year's Wellington Sevens saw Westpac Stadium virtually empty. Photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz
The first day of this year's Wellington Sevens saw Westpac Stadium virtually empty. Photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

Auckland event bosses have been circling the Wellington Sevens for almost a year.

Documents obtained by the Herald reveal staff inside Auckland Council's tourism and events arm, Ateed, have shown interest in potential hosting rights for at least nine months.

Emails between unnamed Ateed staffers on June 1 last year, obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, reveal the Sevens have been seen as an alternative to an NRL Nines hosting deal which is "coming up for renewal".

Headed "9s and 7s", the Ateed emails detail an employee seeking an update from a colleague on whether New Zealand Rugby had been engaged over Auckland's interest in a potential change in location for the New Zealand round of the World Rugby Sevens.

"Norm has just asked for an update during MBEC [Major and Business Events Committee] on the future of the Nines at the end of the five years and the potential of the 7s to replace 9s," the staffer wrote, whose name was redacted in the released documents.

"While I know the update on Nines I'm not sure if there have been any conversations with NZR about 7s. Can you please update me ASAP."

Nineteen minutes later, an unnamed colleague's reply confirmed NZ Rugby had been told of Auckland's interest - citing a specific conversation with NZR relationships, planning and operations manager Nigel Cass.

"We have informally signalled our interest with the 7s at a breakfast with Nigel Cass. We highlighted that we are coming up for renewal with the Nines and would like to have the visibility of the chance of hosting the Sevens - and tried to understand (unsuccessfully) the sort of investment being sought," the email said.

Once one of the biggest annual events and hottest tickets on the New Zealand sporting calendar, years of poor sales and crowd-control issues have seen the Wellington Sevens slump into major decline.

Less than a third of tickets were sold to this year's two-day tournament, prompting suggestions the event has run its course in Wellington - including from former Rugby World Cup boss and Duco Events chief Martin Snedden.

Ateed chief executive, Brett O'Riley, confirmed Auckland's interest but said no work had been done on financial viability.

"Ateed is always open to new opportunities for Auckland, but would only consider the Sevens if Wellington decided it was no longer going to host the tournament," O'Riley said.

"Any new major event considerations for Auckland would be subject to a feasibility assessment, including consideration of Auckland's accommodation capacity.

"Ateed has not had any detailed discussions or undertaken a feasibility process about Auckland hosting the Rugby Sevens, and Ateed would not bid to host an event without that work taking place."

- NZ Herald

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