Let me make this clear up front – I have never been a fan of the USA Sevens; I’ve only been a fan of good rugby. I go to the USA Sevens every year and pay good money to attend for the aforementioned reason (good rugby) and for the chance to meet up with dear friends and family that I only get to see once every year. Aside from that the event itself seems to get progressively worse while the actual organizers seem to do more and more to fleece its patrons even while the level of the competition has gone up as evidenced by the success of teams like Kenya, Portugal and Spain who have excelled in the U.S.
But there are definitely some things that are beginning to irritate USA Sevens customers and it appears that USA Sevens organizers (American International Lifestyles) have not only been clueless about the issues, they seem to be ignoring the issues completely.
1) Venue – This seems (to me at least) to be the root of many problems related to the growing pains experienced by the USA Sevens. Sam Boyd Stadium is a nice little field that provides access to hotels, entertainment, a myriad of food options and additional venues for the Las Vegas (rugby) Invitational. But you cannot ignore the fact that it’s still a football field trying to act like a rugby field.
2) Parking – Parking at the stadium is horrendous. It’s a joke and a dirty one at that. By the time the tournament was over my van looked like it had gone on safari.
3) Tickets – For the first time ever my family decided to purchase our tickets at the gate. What a mistake! My wife and kids stood in line (I had already acquired a ticket in a prior arrangement made with my sons’ teams) for an hour and a half on Saturday. There were hundreds of people who spent more time outside the stadium than they did inside because by the time they got their tickets the games they wanted to watch were over. Meanwhile TWO ticket agents took their time, were rude to some customers when they were asked questions and absolutely ignored other customers who asked to have another window opened up.
4) Pricing – Since we’re on the subject of tickets, how do the organizers and USA Rugby justify increasing the ticket sales every single year without actually improving the quality of their product? You haven’t sold out a stadium so demand isn’t really a problem yet. You’re still giving me the same number of games but you’ve spread it out over three days instead of two which means I have to spend more money on hotels, rentals, etc., to appease the cities you’re catering to. You aren’t giving me any major deals on said accommodations and meals so that’s not it. I just can’t figure out how tickets continue to get more and more expensive. Inflation? Maybe but if that’s the case get rid of the third day and let’s go back to the two-day format will you?
5) Concessions – This is an international tournament so please have international meal choices available for the fans. I understand that you have contracted concessions (and yes the prices are always going to be outrageous) there at the stadium but at least allow more choices outside in the vendor/marketplace.
6) Vendors/Marketplace – This has been a huge pet peeve of mine from the very beginning. I understand that the organizers and their sponsors are trying to make their money but does that also mean that no one else, specifically the vendors who have purchased space at the three-day event is allowed to make money as well? They have essentially banned vendors from selling any apparel in or around the stadium. I don’t know about you but would you buy a Samoan DVD or a Fijian kava bowl to wave around in the air when your team is playing? Not me – I go there to buy something that says Samoa, NZ, Fiji even Irish with my countries specific designs, motifs and flare not something generic with the words “USA Sevens” prominently displayed on my shirt or hoodie that was made in Singapore and does not accurately portray my fierce loyalty to my countrymen.
7) Entertainment – How many years have Kenya been involved in this tournament and all you can come up with is nonspecific African bongos when they score a try? You don’t hear bagpipes playing when Scotland scores and you don’t hear harps and fiddles when the Irish score and do you think the English want UB40’s rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” playing every time you scan the crowd and see an English flag flapping in the wind? And we certainly don’t want to see a bunch of scantily clad women dancing hip-hop or some goof and his girlfriend getting married in between matches. Get creative and get the crowd involved and for Pete’s sake get an announcer who knows what the hell he’s talking about. You would never get away with that in an NFL, NBA, MLB not even an MLS match so why do you think it’s acceptable at a rugby tournament that’s seen around the world?
Yes I know that there is a whole unopened bag of reasons why the tournament is fun but I also have to say that the tournament is only fun because of the reasons I stated at the beginning of this rant. The teams and the fans have created the atmosphere, not the organizers. While you’re busy collecting your money, we are out there cheering and spending more money to make this event successful and guess what? We will keep coming back if only for those two reasons. But if the organizers don’t make some drastic changes to maintain the ground that they have made in hosting this tournament, then perhaps we may have to decide if spending our money this June at the Grand Prix Rugby Championship in Los Angeles will be a better option.