organizers of the Emirates Dubai Sevens They say the newly expanded tournament is the model by which World Rugby wants to broaden the sport’s appeal.
The competition will once again be the first of the new eight-stage HSBC SVNS World Series when it takes place from December 1-3.
Another new sport will be added to the National Day weekend event. In recent years, netball, cricket and crossfit competitions have joined what was a rugby-only event for the best part of 50 years. This year a paddle tennis tournament will be held for the first time.
According to Simon Jelowitz, Sevens’ head of sports operations, Dubai is setting an example for other stages of the series.
“World Rugby wants seven others dubaiJelowitz said. “That may sound a little stubborn, (but) they’re saying it can’t just be a nine-hour festival of World Series rugby anymore. There needs to be more information on this.
“This model seems to be where World Rugby wants to go. Hong Kong and Dubai are seen as the standard bearers for this type of experience. Now the responsibility falls on the other (tournaments) in the series to do that.”
There are nearly 5,000 players scheduled to participate across all sports, and 100,000 spectators are expected to attend over the three days.
Rugby will continue to provide the largest number, with 2,916 participants. Netball will have 850, cricket 432, 300 will participate in the fitness challenge and 250 in padel.
Jelowitz says the new sports have helped create a broader appeal. “Cricket, for example, is very popular here,” he said.
“It helps us be more culturally diverse. Encourage people who would not have had an association with the tournament to come and participate.
“It is important for us to develop to showcase the wonderful cultural diversity of the city.”
Mateo Tait, Festival director and CEO of the Dubai Sevens, he won the main tournament twice as a player with England in 2004 and 2005.
Those competitions were rugby-only and were played at a completely different venue, at the former Dubai Exiles ground in Al Awir.
He says the event has responded to the growth of the UAE and the city’s changing demographics.
“We have to be aware of the fact that Dubai has changed,” Tait said. “When I played in 2004 and 2005, Dubai was at the beginning of this incredible journey under the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.
“Sevens was pretty much the only game in town at the time. Now, every weekend there are multiple things, so we have to consider iterating and changing.”
His two Dubai titles are among the favorite career memories of Tait, who also played for England’s XV team in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final.
He describes Sevens as the “purest form” of the game and states that if economic conditions were more favorable, he would have happily remained in it.
“Honestly, there was no money in it,” Tait said. “If it had been the same money then maybe. When I was young I was lucky enough to be able to travel the world and see places of interest, and I also managed to do so in the XV, although on a slightly larger scale and with more stress.
“The thing about Sevens is that it’s the game in its purest form, and that was the part of the game I enjoyed.
“There was pressure, yes, because one has the motivation to win and perform well. But there is not the same media scrutiny as when you are in the XV.
“I really enjoyed it. There was a trip where we visited the Gold Coast, the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a week in Bali and then the Hong Kong Sevens, and that is probably the fondest memory of my entire career.”
Updated: October 24, 2023, 11:50 am