Germany is about to host its biggest rugby event ever

Denis Frank Roar Rookie

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    It took a solid 92 years to get rugby’s status as an Olympic sport reinstated. But ever since the IOC’s decision back in 2008 to do just that, Sevens has been going places globally.

    Who would’ve thought in their right mind only a couple of years back that Colombia would be among the top 12 nations to qualify for rugby’s comeback at the Olympics?

    Or that some of the biggest names in rugby league – like Jarryd Hayne and Sonny Bill Williams – would eventually try, and in Hayne’s case spectacularly fail, at trying to make it in sevens?

    The HSBC Sevens World Series has been going from strength to strength and more than doubled its total attendance figure within a few years to over 750,000 across the ten events.

    That success story has attracted interest from different would-be hosts and Canada’s example proves – successfully setting up an event in a non-traditional rugby nation is possible.

    The Fiji rugby union just last week has expressed their interested in hosting an event in 2020. Germany and its growing rugby community already went a step further – this year the union will for the first time host an invitational sevens tournament in the country’s third largest stadium with an impressive line-up.

    After an unsuccessful bid to host a world series event three years ago, the organisers of that bid now went ahead with an invitational tournament.

    The tournament – aptly named DHL Oktoberfest 7s – will be held right during the world famous Oktoberfest in Munich.

    With more than 600,000 international visitors annually making their way to the biggest beer fest on the planet, many of them from rugby-mad countries, the biggest challenge is to lure them across town to the Olympic Stadium.

    With this year’s line-up, boasting the likes of Fiji, South Africa and England, the organisers have a good case to attract these Oktoberfest visitors, who only have a fifteen-minute subway ride to make from the beer fest grounds.

    For Germany’s sevens team the upcoming home tournament provides a possibility to regularly play the world’s best teams.

    That is a huge asset as the German union’s sporting director Manuel Wilhelm confirms: “Having the opportunity to play the world’s best sides on a regular basis at home is a perfect way for us to measure our progress on our way to the World Series.“

    Back in April Germany made the final of the World Series Qualifier tournament held as part of the Hong Kong Sevens and was about to secure promotion onto the World Series.

    However the German team just fell short after having been agonisingly close and relinquishing the lead against Spain with less than two minutes to go.

    Ultimately the aim for the organisers is to become part of the World Series as soon as possible as managing director Michael Weber confirms: “The countless resources we’ve invested to convince the high-profile participants to come would be freed to invest in further in making the tournament and sport more prominent in Germany, if we became part of the world series.”

    However already this year six out of the world’s top ten teams are going to be part of the DHL Oktoberfest 7s with the prominent exception of New Zealand. For the other world class teams, including Andy Friend’s Aussie Sevens boys, the DHL Oktoberfest 7s fit right into their preparations for the World Series as a perfect early hit-out.

    If the tournament were to become part of the Sevens circuit, it would have to be as the season opener. A later date would not be desirable nor feasible as Europe’s heading into the sometimes very cold autumn. Coinciding with the Oktoberfest will in the eyes of the organisers become a huge asset over time.

    Furthermore the current break between the final World Series London leg in May and the traditional Dubai opener in late November leaves fans with a whopping six Sevens-free months.

    In a way the DHL Oktoberfest 7s is testing the waters for other aspiring hosts. Attracting a big title sponsor in DHL has definitely boosted the likelihood of the project becoming an instant hit.

    Germany has many more blue chip companies that are invested in rugby elsewhere, but have been reluctant to do the same in their home country. With Allianz and BMW two very prominent examples are just across town in Munich. This tournament might just be a start for rugby in this football mad country.

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