Chad Keck has joined the USA Rugby Board, replacing Bill Middleton, and this former captain of West Point and the Harvard Business School rugby teams has a job to do – get the 2018 7s World Cup in the USA.
For years, whenever we talk about a major international event coming to the USA (in addition to the USA 7s, already here), the 7s World Cup seems to make the most sense.
It doesn’t require, as the 15s World Cup requires, a multi-city, multi-venue offering. It’s not two months, it’s three days. The question is, can USA Rugby execute it?
The short answer is, no, they can’t, not unless they, like every other major event hosting governing body, enlist the help of private and public organizations. USA Rugby is still dipping their toes into major event management. Houston was a huge success in terms of crowds and interest, but that was in large part thanks to the partners on the ground. The USA v. Tonga match in Carson, Calif. was nowhere near the same – actually as an event you’d have to call it a disappointment - because USA Rugby resources were devoted more to Houston, and the local partners weren’t as engaged.
One of USA Rugby’s greatest failings as an organization is the desire to be all things to all people, and thus take control of a venture rather than work with others to make something better. The Super League wasn’t made better by being under USA Rugby’s umbrella. It wasn’t made worse, either. Private enterprises such as the USA 7s, CRC, and the boys and girls High School invitationals have done just fine. The HS NITs were arguably better, both organizationally and financially, for not having USA Rugby involved.
And while I feel USA Rugby should be spending more time on events, they don’t; they spend time on a variety of things. Now, however, if a 7s RWC 2018 were to be in the United States, the small office in Boulder and one member of the Board better get on the phone with some other groups. Such as? Well I won’t be so crass as to say it should be the company that runs USA 7s (United World Sports), especially as that company is associated with RUGBYMag.com. (See what I did there?)
But it should be somebody – a state sports commission plus a knowledgeable group dedicated to this effort will be needed.
To make a 2018 RWC 7s work, you need an awesome venue. The United States does have the opportunity to put the last two tournaments to shame. Moscow had a lot going for it, but its stadium is massive – too massive – and its surrounding fields a bit of an afterthought. As a result, there was no video broadcast of the secondary field, and Luzhniki Stadium always appeared completely empty. It was, actually, really sad, and drastically detracted from the spectacle.
In Dubai the complex gave more of a nod to Field 2, but the complex is a bit bare bones in many respects. USA could do much better.
Now, what I wish is for a dedicated 7s stadium to be built. For this to work, it would need two fields, with good stands for both, plenty of space for fans to relax and take a break – out of the sun. You need space for teams to warm up in (Moscow had lots, Dubai almost none), and locker room facilities for 40 teams. It’s a massive undertaking, but could be possible if done right.
We know we can’t build such a venue, but maybe you can find it. There are many venues that could serve, but the key is you need two playing surfaces, the secondary venue has to be within walking distance, preferably right next door, the field has to be nice, and it has to be more than just a field with a few temporary seats thrown up.
And then you have to have that venue in a place that can accommodate hotels, training facilities, TV, and internet, and is relatively easy to get to so fans will show up.
What you can’t do is just shrug at Field #2 and accept any old thing. What you can’t do is have an enormous stadium that echoes with emptiness. And especially for American rugby in general, what you can’t do is promise a lot and not deliver.
And company associations aside, what they should do is at least meet with the United World Sports guys to find out how it’s been done, and how it all could be better.
So it’s a good thing that someone with Chad Keck’s background is involved in the game, and that he’s also not just hanging around wondering what to do. He has a task before him, and a worthy one. The question is, will Keck, Nigel Melville, Kevin Robert, and USA Rugby ask for help?
We know they will need it.