As British Columbia continues to experience an increase in severe COVID-19 cases, Rugby Canada and World Rugby will jointly announce the postponement of the HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver.
The two-day men’s rugby sevens event, which was scheduled to take place over the weekend of February 26 and 27, is now taking place approximately six weeks later, over the weekend of April 16 and 17 at BC Place.
The number of serious coronavirus cases in the province peaked earlier this week, with BC having the highest number of coronavirus-related hospital cases since the start of the pandemic, with 854 people admitted as of Tuesday.
It was the continued rise in serious cases that eventually led Rugby Canada to this course of action.
“We always put off provincial health and with World Rugby we flagged it a few weeks ago by saying ‘We don’t know if we’ll be good by the end of February’, which is the original date,” said Gareth Rees, commercial director and program relations for Rugby Canada.
“So we put those concerns [to World Rugby] and as a result we have postponed it.”
The tournament was scheduled to take place the week before the US event in Los Angeles, but will now be held the week after the Singapore leg of the series, with the athletes flying from there to BC. It’s a big year for the seven-a-side version of the sport, with both the Men’s and Women’s World Championships set to take place in South Africa in September.
“Along with the tournament organizers, we are disappointed that we are unable to deliver these events on the dates originally scheduled,” Douglas Langley, World Rugby’s head of Sevens Competitions, said in a statement. “However, the global nature of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the logistical constraints associated with the ongoing and dynamic nature of the pandemic continue to pose challenges for all stakeholders.
“Our collective focus is to ensure that the events are as safe, impactful and enjoyable as possible for all involved and therefore delay is the best course of action.”
The Canadian men’s and women’s teams are both currently in Malaga, Spain, where they prepare to play the second leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this weekend.
The HSBC Canada Sevens is part of that series, which has taken place in Vancouver every year since 2016, when it was added as the 10th stop on the annual tour around the world. The 2021 tour was reduced to just two stops – both taking place on Canadian soil – with Edmonton co-hosting both events with Vancouver last September.
A number of teams chose not to participate, including Australia, New Zealand, France and Argentina due to travel restrictions related to the pandemic.
Given the usual success of the event – the Canada Sevens stop drew a total attendance north of 70,000 fans each year before the pandemic – Rugby Canada hopes a delay will give it every chance of becoming a fan-packed spectacle, with players and supporters can safely observe the action.
“Safety must come first [priority]Rees said. “We cannot afford, I think, to have a black eye in terms of an event that has not served our audience or athletes, by the way. And then yes, once that’s secured, we want to be so alive [an] event if we can.”
The event has proved a financial boost to Rugby Canada, as well as the BC Prepandemic province, the Canada Sevens generated approximately $24 million in economic activity in the province annually, with the tournament booking more than 2,300 room nights in hotels for players and staff.
“Not only is it a great event and an opportunity to profile the athletes and our partners, but it is also the driving force behind much of what we do every day,” said Rees. “Whether it’s growing the game, finding opportunities for kids, funding, you know, activities in and around rugby, so it’s hugely important now.”
As other sports have shown, from the NHL withdrawing from the Beijing Olympics to make up for postponed games, to the canceled World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer, flexibility is key to hosting an event in the United States. current climate.
The rescheduling of last year’s event from the usual March moment to the eventual September event has taught Rees and Rugby Canada a lot about being open to all possibilities.
“We have learned a lot in the past two years,” he said. “So we have a good sense of what is acceptable and what is not. And, you know, of course we’re not going to take any chances [it] just like the world juniors couldn’t just keep going.
“Ideally, before that decision to launch the tournament, we would have all… [pandemic-related concerns] under control, and we wouldn’t launch if there was a risk.”