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Sevens Rugby organisers ‘collaborated’ with moral panic

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

A new analysis of the removal of Sevens Rugby from Wellington has blamed the organisers, including NZ Rugby, and the police for the decline in crowd attendance.

The Report, Demise of the Wellington Sevens, by public relations consultancy BlacklandPR, concludes that organisers collaborated in a “moral panic” led by police and the Wellington “establishment” against crowd behaviour and alcohol consumption.

BlacklandPR director Mark Blackham said today that organisers had connived against their own customers in giving in to a moral panic among a small elite of public figures.

“Sevens Rugby is being awarded to Hamilton today because the organisers destroyed the popularity of the Wellington event,” he said.

BlacklandPR’s in-depth analysis tracks how complaints against the Sevens party atmosphere increased from 2010, and how Sevens Rugby organisers tried to adjust the event to satisfy the crusading police and Wellington city’s society figures.

“The organisers sided with growing discomfort and virtue-signalling among the establishment, rather than with their audience – those people buying tickets.

 “They criticised crowd behaviour and willingly introduced rules that eroded the party atmosphere.”

 The report pinpoints the 2014 event as the key year. Organisers went along with police demands for event management, but the result was a record number of arrests and evictions. This provided the evidence the police and city establishment needed to claim “something must be done”.

The crowd’s experience of the policing, rules and criticism by public figures turned them off returning. The 2015 event was completely revamped to effectively shut down partygoers.

Blackham says the analysis was undertaken to learn PR lessons for the future.

“The lesson is that when criticised organisations must stand up for themselves, their product and their customers. Noisy critics don’t necessarily have any interest in your success. So trying to meet their needs courts failure.

“For seven years, the Sevens’ organisers collaborated with the police. The only year the police declared themselves satisfied with behaviour at the event was this year, when almost no one turned up.”

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