Sport
Antoine Dupont

Paris Olympics can transform rugby sevens, says Pinder

The spotlight of the Paris 2024 Olympics can help supercharge rugby sevens, according to HSBC SVNS series general manager Sam Pinder.

The short format is set to take centre stage in the French capital this summer, with global stars such as Antoine Dupont and Ellie Kildunne amongst those in line to compete for gold at the Stade de France.

The yearly HSBC SVNS series is set for its climax in Madrid this weekend before all eyes will turn to Paris, where former Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Pinder hopes the sport can win new fans from across the globe ahead of the 2025 Series.

“It is a huge opportunity for our sport,” said Pinder. “We have got the honour of kicking off the Olympics on the 24 July, two days before the opening ceremony. 

“We are expecting a packed-out stadium across six days in the Stade de France that is going to be our biggest and best sevens event we have ever had on the world stage.

“If we can utilise that as a coming of age for the sport, we are going to grow from strength to strength.

“We saw an uplift when Dupont played in the Vancouver and LA legs. You are looking at a world class player, playing in Paris, the home support is going to be immense and the amount of people that are going to be following it is going to be outstanding.

“The Olympics is the number one sporting event that cuts across the entire globe. If we can inspire and encourage people to pick up a rugby ball and get involved in rugby sevens or 15s, that’s fantastic. For many countries, the smaller unions, rugby sevens is an easier entry point than playing 15s. 

“There is a huge opportunity there for the growth of the sport in more countries than we have had previously.

“This Olympics marks an opportunity that we haven’t had in the past. The first year in Brazil was fantastic and in Tokyo without any crowds you don’t get to see the whole show. Paris is definitely one that is the coming of age for rugby sevens.”

Before any thoughts of Paris, there is the small matter of the conclusion of the 2023-24 HSBC SVNS, with eight men’s and eight women’s teams set to fight it out to be crowned Grand Champion in Madrid across 31 May to 2 June.

It is set to be a fitting end to another globe-trotting tour for the sevens game, with destinations including Singapore, Vancouver and Dubai, and Pinder hopes the combination of thrilling action and top-class entertainment can help spread the game to new parts of the world.

“We see sevens as a vehicle to be able to take rugby to new markets, to attract new fans to the sport,” he added. 

“If you come to a sevens event, the matches are relatively easy to understand. The experience in and around the rugby attracts a lot of people as well.

“It has been hugely successful in that regard in destinations such as Hong Kong and Dubai, Canada, USA and Singapore. All of those markets, you wouldn’t traditionally say they are rugby strongholds, but they have certainly developed their sevens event to be able to attract fans and it has been beneficial for the world of rugby.

“We have got red-hot rugby action, played by some of the most amazing athletes, baked in and around it we have got a lot of entertainment, music, food and beverages that makes it the rugby festival we take around the globe.”

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