My experience at the USA Rugby 7s National Club Championships.  No Expectations, Still Underwhelmed  8

I decided to spend a mid-August weekend in Blaine, Minnesota to watch our top clubs play in the 7s National Championship.  I had no expectations going into the weekend, I just wanted to check it out, watch some good rugby, see some friends, and meet some new ones.

I had no expectations, yet I still managed to be underwhelmed.  I played in this event 6 times, and always marveled in the early ’90s what a small event it was for a National Championship.  We have no excuse for this being a small event now.

I estimate a maximum of 300 people attended that were not involved with teams as a player/coach, or direct supporter.

300 spectators.    At a USA Rugby National Championship event. 

The expectations of the American rugby community for our National events are at deplorable levels.   There has just never been anyone to say – “Hey, let’s make this a real event, that people want to attend, because it’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s American Rugby”.

32 teams played in this tournament.  The rugby was terrific!  It was not HSBC circuit quality, but it was fun, entertaining, and it was ours. American. Men and Women. The commitment of the players was inspiring at every level.

If this event were something worth looking forward to, we must be able to get 2,000 people to attend.  There was ZERO pre-tournament publicity in Minneapolis prior to this event.  If we put a tournament on that was ‘quality’; i.e., had simple things:

  • Music
  • A public address announcer
  • A quality method of keeping track of matches, etc…
  • More places to enter the event unpaid than paid
  • The basics.

None of those basics were present at this event (minus some public announcements the last two hours of the event).  The location was fine. Centrally located, perfect conditions, excellent amenities for players, and a colossal failure and missed opportunity to sincerely promote the sport of rugby in this country.  The amount of ‘youth’ rugby at this event was negligible at best.

Excellent conditions at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota for tournament participants

Marketing?  I thought USA Rugby had a Marketing Guru on its Board

A simple Facebook targeted advertisement costing $250 would get 50,000 confirmed ‘looks’ at the chosen audience in the Blaine, Minneapolis area.  It works!  Simple, but apparently ‘event promoters’ can’t even figure out that marketing technique.

Mentioning the Board of Directors, none of them were at this event, and only 3-4 congress people to really witness how low our standards are for events at USA Rugby.

USA Rugby Events as a Business

Staying conservative, with a small amount of marketing and more advanced announcement (only by a few weeks) – I estimate 2,000 people minimum could/should attend. If potential spectators had a quality event, they would easily pay $20/head per day ($30/2-day pass).  For me, that is approx $60,000 in missed revenue opportunities from ticket sales alone.  Add in licensing, increased local sponsorship due to this festival atmosphere would generate over $150,000 in revenue.  The atmosphere at the NSC in Blaine with 2,000 people, music blaring, etc… would be fun.  And the event could grow, year after year.  With outstanding atmosphere, will come sponsorship for the individual event.  I saw little evidence of local specific event sponsorship.

The Emil Signes Cup, now representing the USA Rugby Club 7’s National Championships. “Without Women’s 7s there would be no Olympics, and w/out Emil Signes, there might not be Women’s 7s”.

Note, I haven’t even mentioned the down time of The Rugby Channel during the weekend, another entity brought to us by “RIM”.

I was told by one of the ‘event directors’, “this is an expensive event to run”.  I offered my suggestions above

Tony Ridnell

Eagle #168, and 4-time USA Rugby Club 7’s National Champion, MVP 1990.

Other Articles I have written on this topic:



  1. Tony, Give up mate. They will never let you in. You constantly point out how amateurish they are. As you quite rightly point out. Our finals only generating a crowd of 300 is a joke. No doubt everyone was watching drone racing or frisby golf on ESPN 3 or 4 or 5. Know what I mean?Its a disgrace we cannot get our product on TV. I believe ESPN bought Mitre 10 cup from NZ and will just sit on it. What if we give our product away for free in the early years? When Argies, Scots and Irish played here in Houston vs Eagles I remember commenting that I never once saw these teams paraded on local TV for interviews and advertizing the game. As you’ve heard many times “They couldn’t run a ‘piss-up’ in a brewery”.Not enough care.

  2. Agreed 100%! As an event producer we have been trying for over a decade to help build rugby in the US from a live event perspective. There has never been a response from USA Rugby. In fact- emails have been ignored completely! Just last week the World Police and Fire Games were in Los Angeles with thousands of international athletes from across the globe! Teams playing rugby in the worst conditions imaginable and that was the image these athletes left with. Zero support. I had reached out to USA rugby to get involved and not 1 response from any one of them. I know them personally and yet emails go ignored. We miss opportunities daily and all I can imagine is that they can’t admit that they do not know how to do it. I am flabbergasted at the mismanagement. Hope you can make a change.

  3. Pingback: My Experience at the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017. Belfast, Ireland. What’s next? #BringIt « Tony Ridnell

  4. Pingback: My Experience at USA Rugby’s National Development Summit (NDS) 2018 « Tony Ridnell

  5. Pingback: Thoughts on Site Selection for Rugby Tests in North America. USA Rugby v Rugby Canada. Festival – All grades, both sexes. « Tony Ridnell

  6. Pingback: Professional governance can make all rugby in America successful. Amateur, Pro, & International « Tony Ridnell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s