Wellington Scoop

Taking the fun out of the Sevens

by Ian Apperley
The Sevens organisers and the city council are bullish about the Sevens. They think that 15,000 seats being filled, if they can indeed be filled, is just fine and dandy. Despite the fact that means there are 20,000 seats left empty.

It’s head in the sand stuff as we’ve already discussed, and a lot of you have responded saying the “fun police” have destroyed the event.

So, I wondered to myself, “have the fun police, this notional force of grumpy cat lookalikes, wowsers, rule makers, social warriors, anti-rugby proponents, actually destroyed the Sevens?”

Sure, to a great extent they have, as have the Police by taking, in my opinion, a sledgehammer to the drinking issues rather than being creative about how they are managed.

But, this is anecdotal, I needed to find what the actual rules are. So, I looked them up, with some surprising results. Now, I don’t cover all the rules, because there are no less than 27 of them with another 13 sub-rules. Forty in all.

I picked on the ones that looked like they were taking the fun out of the event.

You must explain to the authorities where you bought your ticket and for how much, if asked. You must. If they don’t like the answer (there are more rules), they can take your tickets (they insist they belong to them anyway) and throw you out.

If you leave the venue after 4pm on either day, you won’t be allowed back in, even though the event goes on well into the evening.

Why? Are they trying to trap people into only being able to eat and drink there? Do they not want thousands of empty seats on international television? Do they not want to pay gate staff to let you back in? In the hundreds of events I’ve attended, over decades, I’ve never come across this before.

In the clothing, costume, stakes there are many, many rules. No bare feet, no high visibility clothing, nothing that looks like a weapon, and you must conform to decency (whatever that means.) The list is quite extensive.

As well as actual weapons being “restricted items”, thus we assume dangerous and no good, so are the following items; cans, thermos flasks, hot food (yes really), takeaway food (yes, really), picnic baskets, chilly bins, musical instruments, political or religious banners, toy guns, water pistols, flag sticks, prams, strollers, and pushchairs.

So much for “family friendly.”

In the Family Zone, just so we are very clear, you must have at least one child with you always and it notes that it is an area for “moderate” drinking only. Which would make the other areas a place for not-moderate drinking? The definition of family is at least one child. The age of the child is not specified.

Should something go wrong, it’s not the fault of anyone at the stadium. Even if it was their fault, it won’t be.

You can be searched at any time with no reason, including when you leave the stadium.

You can take pictures or video, but you may under no circumstances share them on any social media (disseminate over the Internet) or take selfies with friends (assist any other person(s) conducting such activities), and you must not live stream yourself (broadcast.)

In counterpoint to that, the organisers can disseminate your image (still or video) wherever they like on whatever medium they like without your permission. You make that free of charge to them. You also waive any rights, on a worldwide basis, to those images and any money that gets made belongs not to you.

I remember when you could go to the rugby with a picnic lunch, a thermos of tea, a beer if you fancied, and watch a good game. Around provincial New Zealand, this is still allowed. In most places people are treated as adults rather than having to agree to a complex legal agreement before walking into a stadium.

That easy-going attitude applies across New Zealand except where large corporate interests and nanny-state styles have come down on large city stadiums.

Race courses, stock car tracks, fireworks shows, concerts in parks, cricket grounds, outdoor music festivals, and the like basically trust people to behave like adults and have a good time. Families aren’t segregated from non-families either.

Seriously, the rules could be rewritten to say “Don’t be a dick. If you are a dick, you’re going to get thrown out.”

That’s how it works everywhere else in the world, but not at Westpac Stadium. They need lawyers and a legal contract that takes the fun out of events, in my opinion.

Would I go to the Sevens again? No. I don’t like the overly authoritarian feeling of the event and I’m particular about what I put in my body, and that doesn’t include Stadium food. The costs are extortionate. I’m more likely to watch it at my Local with a group where I can see the action properly. Or at home on TV, where I can abide by my own rules.


  1. KB, 20. January 2017, 14:54

    The “can’t get back in if you leave after 4pm” is insanely stupid for an event that runs for 9 hours.

  2. Henry Filth, 20. January 2017, 17:01

    Out of curiosity, how are the Hong Kong Sevens and the Dubai Sevens faring?

  3. Bob Hope, 20. January 2017, 19:54

    My take:
    The sevens started. Boozy factor 1.
    Each year the boozy factor went up 1 or 1.5.
    It got to 5/6. Then they should have started steering the ship back on course for a 3/4. But it was really popular, they were charging more and more for tickets each year. The food and grog was appalling but jeez, they were buying so much of it.
    They took the mickey.
    Then years 7/8 it started to get bad press. Rightly so I think – people lying pissed in the gutter by lunch on the Friday was too much. They pressed on – cha ching went the tills.

    By the time it got to 9/10 they had to correct the course too much and it killed the enthusiasm for all the punters. Those who were there for the booze felt they were too heavy handed. Those who were there for the rugby/spectacle had been burnt by the experience of too many drunks. Everyone was sick of being fleeced more and more dollars, year on year.

    It’s a shame. It was good for Wellington for a long time.

  4. Henry Filth, 21. January 2017, 5:20

    Yeah, that’s about it, Bob.

    Greed and drunks.

  5. Ian Apperley, 21. January 2017, 10:28

    Hey Henry, Couldn’t easily find the attendance figures, however, I do note for Hong Kong that there are only ten rules and they are all very straightforward unlike the plethora of rules here. Dubai figures were easier to find, they smashed records last year in December. It broke all previous records and saw over 100,000 attendees.

  6. Henry Filth, 21. January 2017, 17:34

    Thanks Ian. I think there are two strands here.

    One is rugby, good rugby, televised worldwide to a mass global audience. Loving the local colour as an “extra.”

    The other is Wellington. I suspect that the sevens is Wellington’s largest regular sporting event.

    I suspect that the organizers want a New Zealand venue for “All Black magic rub-off”, but don’t care where in New Zealand the venue is. After all, their money’s in the TV rights, yeah? But Wellington wants nicely-behaved bums on seats, paying through the nose for consumables, because that’s where the money is for them.

    These two strands should be symbiotic, but I’m sure that we’ll end up with a confrontation, after which the Wellington Sevens will follow the Wearable Art Awards to become the New Zealand Sevens – in Auckland.

  7. staircase, 21. January 2017, 21:50

    Years ago I talked to a young guy who was majoring in recreational administration at Victoria University. He told me there were three main principles for ensuring any recreational activity was successful.

    They were the participants’ anticipation or excitement prior to the event, the enjoyment of the actual event and a positive reminiscence following the event amongst those who attended.

    It seems clear from Ian Apperley’s article and the comments above that the Wellington Sevens may be struggling to consistently provide patrons with an event that sucessfully delivers those three principles.