It used to be that for big civic events we were told that “the eyes of the world” would be on Wellington. This year the international audience for the Wellington Sevens would have been puzzled to see so many empty yellow seats.
A result which cannot have made the organisers either happy or pleased, in spite of the judgement of the police, though the Sevens manager said he was “thrilled with the feel-good vibe.”
There’s a much tougher judgement today from Winston Peters. He blames the “nanny state” government and says:
“What people wanted and enjoyed was a lively weekend with friends, dressing up in funny costumes and having a hell of a party with 30,000 other people. Anyone that thinks different is naive. Now we’re being told having fun like that is wrong….The solution is to bring back the drunk and disorderly law – the Police Offences Act 1927 – which stated anyone drunk in a public place committed an offence.”
What will be the fate of the Sevens? The DomPost today quotes an ominous prediction from Nigel Cass of NZ Rugby, who says crowd numbers are so low it is no longer viable to host the event in the capital. But Sevens manager Steve Dunbar sounds less certain:
“World Rugby … give hosting rights to New Zealand Rugby. New Zealand Rugby then make recommendations about what city their tournament is held in. At the end of the day, it’s World Rugby’s decision. They will decide, but things need to work well for them, and their measures are broadcast viewership and sponsorship. It [also] needs to work well for New Zealand Rugby. We have different financial risks. And it needs to work well for the city as well.”
What is certain is that the Sevens is now being outsold by longer-established local events which have been successful in retaining and growing their audiences.
The annual Wellington Film Festival – in its 44th year – sold a record 79,000 tickets last July. The World of Wearable Arts show (lured here from Nelson in 2005) sold 55,000 tickets.
More popular with Wellingtonians than a mix of quick-fire rugby and music and fancy dress which struggled to sell 18,000 tickets.
Ian Apperley: Too late to save the Sevens?