Room for more at Singapore Sevens
Despite shaky economic forecast, SRU boss Low says Singapore Sevens will be a drawcard
The global economy looks shaky in the next few years, but organisers of the Singapore leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series are still confident of pulling in the fans next April.
The slowing economy has already affected this year's edition of the Singapore Airlines Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, where overall ticket sales were 15 per cent lower than the average attendance since the inaugural race in 2008.
Rugby Singapore chairman Low Teo Ping, though, is confident that the Singapore Sevens on April 15 and 16 at the National Stadium will still be able to attract 30,000 fans each day.
A crowd of 27,370 watched as Kenya defeated eventual series champions Fiji 30-7 in the 2016 Singapore Sevens final.
"I have been telling everyone working on this (Singapore Sevens) project not to treat it as a sports project; it's an entertainment product," said Low, also the Singapore Rugby Union's president.
The 71-year-old veteran sports administrator is looking at ways to get attendees hooked on rugby.
"We want fans of rugby. Fans are more loyal than customers... fans will come dressed in costumes, colour their faces and wanting to part of the whole atmosphere," he said.
"They are committed to wanting to support you, year in, year out."
Various initiatives, such as encouraging fans of the different teams to sit together, and to dress up creatively, have been introduced, while fringe activities have been moved from the OCBC Square to the concourse of the 55,000-seater stadium.
While Low foresees that the global economic situation affecting the event's search for sponsorships, he said the major sponsors have been locked in on multi-year deals.
Low's bullish outlook on the Singapore event mirrors the growth of the sport globally, following the commercial success of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, as well as the return of rugby - in the form of Sevens - at the Olympic Games in Rio in August.
With the revenue generated from the World Cup last year, World Rugby is expected to invest some £245.8m ($437.8m) in growing the sport in the coming years, which is 22 per cent more than the investment between 2013 and this year.
World Rugby's head of commercial, broadcast and marketing Murray Barnett said that the international body is also looking at expanding the 10-city World Rugby Sevens Series.
Among the moves on the drawing board is adding more Asian stops, besides the two in Singapore and Hong Kong currently, said the 46-year-old Briton.
Also, other than the 16 teams, a second-tier competition is also being considered, with a promotion-relegation system in place.
The Sevens game, Barnett said, will be the "growth engine" of the sport globally because of its simplified rules, compared to the 15s version.
But, he added: "I don't see that (expansion) happening in the next one or two years. But there will come a time when we will work out a way in which the squads are big enough, and where the transportation and management of players are sufficient such that we are able to add new places on the schedule.
"I am sure there will be a big Asian expansion."
We want fans of rugby. Fans are more loyal than customers... fans will come dressed in costumes, colour their faces and wanting to part of the whole atmosphere.
— Rugby Singapore chairman Low Teo Ping