The police and the Wellington city establishment killed the “golden goose” sevens – and tournament organisers collaborated, a hospitality PR expert has claimed.
It was announced on Monday that Wellington would no longer host the annual New Zealand leg of the world sevens series, which would be held in Hamilton for the next two years.
Mark Blackham, director of Wellington-based BlacklandPR, said the demise of the sevens was driven by non-attendees who disliked the behaviour of fans, but gathered strength when it was allied with anti-alcohol and social disorder sentiments.
This is broadly correct.
I’ve heard some people assert that events just have cycles, and the Sevens had peaked and troughed and having it die off (well move to Hamilton – well done Hamilton) is part of a natural cycle.
This is bullshit.
All around the world Sevens tournaments are growing in popularity and attendance. Some like the Hong Kong Sevens have been going for much longer. They are prospering.
This was not a natural death. This was manslaughter.
It takes an extraordinary level of incompetence or malevolence to turn an event from a must attend to a won’t attend. People used to spend months planning to go to the Sevens, working out strategies for buying tickets, designing costumes etc. It was the highlight of the Wellington social calendar. And then it became something that could barely fill a third of the stadium.
The rapid fall in crowd numbers made the tournament financially unviable, and was “caused primarily by the sevens organisers themselves”, he said.
“They criticised crowd behaviour and changed rules that deterred the basis of the enjoyment: a party of silly costumes and silly behaviour, fuelled by alcohol consumption.
“The organisers acquiesced to, and collaborated with, the ‘moral panic’ … among the city establishment, including the council and police.”
This year there was only one non low alcohol beer on sale!
Police said public safety was their priority, and “the decision to move the event is entirely a matter for the organisers”.
You see part of the problem. If so called public safety is seen as the priority over everything else then Wellington should go back to 6 pm closing and have no concerts and no events.
Westpac Stadium boss Shane Harmon agreed that 2014 was the beginning of the end.
“Fatigue set in for the 2014 tournament when we had new legislation, accompanied by a new police approach, and I believe society’s shifting view towards alcohol.
“I attended a meeting with police in October 2013, and they made it clear they didn’t want the event in Wellington, and would enforce new procedures.
The Police in Wellington became anti alcohol zealots.