Sevens rugby gains nothing from being included in Olympics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:13pm

Ex-Fiji coach Ben Ryan’s views (“Overhaul needed to save Series, says Ryan”, March 30) raise issues about rugby sevens and also the Olympics in general.

Although a fan of 15-a-side and sevens rugby, I was opposed to sevens becoming a part of the Olympics. Rugby sevens does not need the Olympics any more than the Olympics needs rugby sevens.

The argument that the Olympics would expand the world of rugby always seemed fatuous, as it was clear that the Olympic event would be substantially smaller than any of the eight annual events in the sevens calendar, let alone the four-yearly World Cup. Ben Ryan feels “the series will eventually become a four-year warm-up for the Olympics”, which is not what it should be. To suggest reducing the number of participating nations in the regular series is in total contrast to the arguments used to promote sevens as an Olympic sport, and appears to favour an elitism that is unacceptable in sport.

While it is important to have exciting games that attract the public, there must always be chances for less able teams to gain experience against better teams. Round robin group matches followed by knockout stages produce a good balance.

Regarding the Olympics in general, there is too little transparency in the decisions made, particularly in choosing and rejecting sports. There should be a published set of criteria. Here are my suggestions:

No sport should be included unless the Olympic event is the greatest in that sport’s regular calendar;

Every sport included should be decided by a stopwatch, a measuring tape or a well-defined set of rules that result in the same decision being made by any referee or umpire, and not decided by a panel of judges whose marks vary significantly;

Every sport included should require a high degree of specific skill, or combination of skills, rather than simply supreme fitness; and,

Every sport included should be played to a reasonably high standard in a substantial number of countries.

I am not suggesting that any sport currently included that does not meet all these criteria should be axed immediately, but the criteria should be applied to all new sports considered, and sensibly applied to the rest in the longer term.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung