It’s Olympic season and as a massive rugby fan, it’s my favourite sport, I always keep an eye on the seven side of the game, depending on time differences. It’ll always be a brilliant sport with or, in this case, without fans.
With the likes of the World Seven Series and Bournemouth 7s Festival, the sport’s popularity is continuing to grow, with sevens festival becoming more of a staple of the UK summer.
However, after the RFU and UK Sport were shamefully unable to agree who’d finance Great Britain’s sevens teams, the England players were then told that their contracts wouldn’t be renewed to save money.
This forced the players to come together and fund-raise to go to the Olympics. A sport where getting a medal in both men’s and women’s is and was a strong possibility.
In Rio, the Men’s side collected silver and the women’s missed out on a bronze. Meanwhile, in Tokyo, the Men’s just missed out on a medal, but the women’s are in the semis (as of Friday 30th July) and gaining a medal is a real possibility.
As everyone who covers the sport states, it could become a popular sport around the world. If it became more mainstream, it would boost rugby needs similar to Twenty20 was for cricket.
So this got me thinking, sevens has a built-in enjoyment on a level thanks to the summer festivals.
However, while international sevens rugby has the World Series, there’s nothing in club/ domestic sevens rugby.
This brings me to this idea of looking at the likes of the Big Bash League (Australian T20 cricket) and the Indian Premier League (again T20 cricket) and using both their and the American sports model of franchises.
Recently, this is something the ECB has done for their Hundreds. Additionally, this format could be used for others sports, with hockey coming to mind.
What’s The Format?
This tournament would include both men’s and women’s teams. Matchdays are happening across a whole weekend with clubs playing two games.
They’ll be 12 franchises across the whole UK and Ireland, with each team playing each other twice across the entire season.
The season will take place over the summer, starting in June and ending in August.
The top eight teams will then enter the playoffs when it becomes best-of-five (similar to the best-of-seven playoff format in the NBA) played over two weekends.
Finals weekend will conclude with the semi-final best-of-five playoffs on Saturday and the finals taking place on Sunday.
The champions will win the trophy and money that will be used as bonuses towards the players and coaching staff.
If there’s a tie for eighth, those teams will face each other in a best of three the weekend before the playoffs while the other seven teams have the weekend off for rest.
The tournament needs to travel across the whole UK, including South, London, Midlands, North, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the West Country. Additionally, the inclusion of Ireland because you need Dublin to be a part of it.
The cities and regions I’ve chosen are Brighton or Bournemouth, Two London sides, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, West Country (Bath/Bristol/Gloucester), Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast.
Expanding the tournament would happen after the first three years with the possibility of 15 teams or looking at five-team second-tier, so you’re adding promotion and relegation to the mix.
Players & Trades
As you can see from the title, I’m going to be using the American sports model of trades and free agency, but before that, here’s the plan for franchises to get players.
Each team have a salary cap of million pounds to spend across their two squads.
Each team will have a star player that is top of the salary cap, like any Fiji player, Ruby Tui, Tom Mitchell, Dan Norton, Jasmine Joyce, Carlin Isles etc. Then you have the wildcard, which could be someone from 15s rugby union, rugby league or even university/academy player like Johnny May, Amy Wilson Hardy or Beauden Barrett.
Player selection will be around the system until each team has squads of 15.
This selection event would happen in the final weekend of April, with teams meeting/training in May, with the hope would be the biggest and best players from the world of sevens would get involved and earn decent money.
Trades and free agency don’t begin until the halfway point of the tournament. Included in those discussions can be anything from round picks, trades or bringing in a free agent. The trade period takes place over a fortnight.
The aim over the following seasons is to increase the salary cap.
Once the season is over, the team that finishes bottom will get the number one pick and the champions will get the 12th and final selection in the first round. This is when teams talk and trading spots to build championship-winning sides.
Once again, I’m looking towards The Hundred and the similar broadcast structure with the rights split between traditional and satellite TV. However, instead of BBC and Sky, this deal will be between Channel 4 and BT Sport.
BT Sport prides itself on being the home of rugby with the Premiership Rugby, European Club Rugby and the occasional International, and their coverage is top draw. Meanwhile, it’s crucial to grow the sport and showcase it on terrestrial TV and Channel 4 has become a decent home for rugby.
They air Champions Cup, International Friendly and recently had the honour to air a Lions match on terrestrial TV for the first time in nearly 30 years and show the highlights from each test match.
So while BT Sport will show every game from the whole weekend live, Channel 4 will show the highlights of Day One & will show Day Two live.
Those are my thoughts of building sevens rugby on from the Olympics and getting these players the excellent living they deserve, especially after getting fucked over by the RFU and UK sport.