PR7S EXPANDS FOOTPRINT WITH THREE-CITY TOUR IN JULY
It’s official. Premier Rugby Sevens is back for its second campaign and first-ever multi-tournament tour in 2022, expanding with a three-stop series barnstorming through Major League Soccer stadiums in San Jose, D.C. and Austin.
“Our biggest goal this year was to expand our footprint,” said Owen Scannell, PR7s Founder and CEO. “We’ll be playing in three time zones, three distinct regions in the country that have phenomenal rugby audiences built in and we’re going to three phenomenal venues.
“They’re centrally located. They’re downtown. They’re really at the forefront of even soccer venues in the country, so we’re really excited about putting our sport in some of the top venues.”
In addition to expansion, there were a few more surprises in the big announcement, including the introduction of the United Championship.
“We’ll be one of the few, if not the only, organized team sports leagues in the world to have a combined championship with both men’s and women’s athletes. When you think about the Loggerheads, it’s not, ‘Oh, that’s a men’s team or women’s team’. It’s both. I think that it’s something we haven’t seen yet that we have the opportunity to be at the front of.
“The United Championship is a fantastic way to begin thinking about the competitive stakes in a combined format, to start to create non-gender-specific allegiances to certain franchises. By having that, it enables us to do a lot to build in terms of team identity and camaraderie. I think it’s going to be really cool to watch the whole thing unfold.”
PR7s’ ergonomically-designed season fits neatly into the month of July. Following the HSBC Sevens World Series, which wraps up in May, and concluding before the World Cup in August, the 2022 season conveniently packages the world’s most electric sport into one intense, bite-sized burst of flavor.
“When we were exploring the various options for 2022, venue availability was question one. Then, there are a number of considerations, from a broadcast window to a player availability and importantly player welfare perspective. Ultimately, what we really liked about this is we didn’t feel like we really had to make any trade-offs.”
The season opens just a few days after America’s 246th birthday, July 9 at San Jose’s PayPal Park smack in the middle of one of rugby’s richest wellsprings stateside, as Northern California has long produced some of the country’s top rugby talent, including Loonies’ Nana Fa’avesi, Headliners’ Folau Niua and The Team’s Danny Barrett.
The stadium is no stranger to rugby, having hosted multiple 15s internationals and the Silicon Valley 7s in 2017, a precursor to the World Series. The Bay Area also successfully hosted the Sevens World Cup in 2018, attracting more than 100,000 live fans and the largest American broadcast audience on record for the sport.
Then the PR7s traveling roadshow hits another grassroots hotbed in D.C. and Audi Field July 16 before a bye week and the grand finale in Austin’s Q2 Stadium. The DC market has most recently hosted the United States men’s national team versus the famed All Blacks and 40,000 or so paying fans last fall, while PR7s will be the first non-soccer event at the brand-new Q2 Stadium.
In addition to tapping into the existent rugby fanbases in each market, PR7s aims to convert soccer hooligans to fans of the hooligan’s game.
“Being soccer venues, there’s a really cool adjacent audience that we think will be excited by rugby sevens, so to be able to leverage that connection is really exciting,” Scannell added.
PR7s launched in May 2021, announcing its intentions to become the world’s first professional sevens league. In October, it made good with the Inaugural Championship, putting boot to ball for the first time. Now, expansion.
“This is a key second step for PR7s. We proved the concept in Memphis and are on our way toward our ultimate goal of creating one of the most compelling sporting competitions and live event experiences on the planet. Building to three tournaments is a big step for us,” said Scannell.
“In the world of startup sports leagues, getting to year two is immensely exciting. The longer that we exist, the bigger our brand grows. To grow and continue to scale in a responsible manner that provides us a runway to build a fantastic product for fans to encounter is really exciting.”
By Pat Clifton