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How popular can Rugby sevens become?

Next year is going to be a significant one for the sport of rugby sevens. The Olympic games in Japan are zooming into focus, and it will once again be a chance for the sport to showcase the very best that it has to offer.

The last Olympics had an overwhelming effect on the sport and ensured that it was able to capture a global audience. The effects of this are still being felt, as the HSBC World Sevens Series is only growing in popularity with every passing year. The events have taken a world of their own in the USA and a lot of the other countries that host events are slowly emulating that.

A report by Nielson stated that there were 33 million people interested in the sport in the US, and while it may have some way to go before matching the kinds of numbers that the SuperBowl does. The initial signs are promising.

It isn’t hard to understand why these numbers are improving on a yearly basis, as the US team is certainly one of the leaders in the men’s section of the World Series, and will be among the favourites to win gold in Tokyo next year. The women are also competitive in their section, and they have already sealed their place in the Olympics next year.

The number of players in the States is progressing steadily with every recording. In 2016 it was found that more than one million new players have joined a team. There are over 2,673 clubs in the US, and that number is only likely to increase. The Olympics in Rio De Janeiro had a profound impact on the sport; especially in countries like Fiji, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Rugby’s world governing body revealed that the Olympics attracted more than 30 million new fans to the sport, and also stated that videos related to sevens exceeded 120 million following the Rio games. Next year we could see the same pattern develop again, as it is seen as a more relatable game than both union and league.

The stories that came out of the 2016 games ensured that it was inevitable that the sport would grow in popularity, and that is especially the case with the Fiji story. Before the gold medal match against Team GB, Fiji had never won an Olympic gold medal, but they showcased their prowess to secure the first against a competitive GB side.

Their success was always going to have a positive effect on the sport back home, and it has done. They have remained competitive in the World Series over recent years and find themselves among the favourites for a second honour in 2020.

The Nielson Sports Report also claimed that the reach of the sport had exceeded all expectations when appealing to women, and especially those aged between 18 and 24. It was also found that sevens outperformed many of the other sports in terms of engagement, with no sport able to boast the same 10% increase that sevens enjoyed.

The United Kingdom was another area that saw profound success, with four out of ten people aged between 18 and 24 tuning in to watch the men’s gold medal match and the women’s bronze medal match.

Defeats in both those games didn’t threaten to slow down the success, and that was backed up by World Rugby claiming that they have enjoyed a growth of 670,000 new followers on social media in the aftermath of the games. There is still more progression to be made in the world of sevens, and it could achieve this at the Olympics next year. Still, the sport is growing faster than a horse running in the Kentucky Derby odds, so it is likely we see it become more and more popular with more young athletes joining.

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