Planning the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco

2018 San Francisco Rugby World Cup

San Francisco, a city that has played host to some of the most prominent events in the world, such as Super Bowl 50 and the America’s Cup, once again shined on the international stage as the Rugby World Cup Sevens came to AT&T Park, 20–22 July.

“San Francisco is the ideal location for the best-ever Rugby World Cup Sevens,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “Our city has become an expert at hosting global sporting events. Our passion for sport is fed by our three-time World Series champions San Francisco Giants and NBA champions Golden State Warriors.”

Giants Enterprises, in partnership with San Francisco Travel, USA Rugby and World Rugby, helped make AT&T Park the center of the rugby world. Giants Enterprises is the organization responsible for putting together events at the SF Giants stadium.  As soon as gates opened on 20 July for the 2018 San Francisco Rugby World Cup Sevens, an event that took years of planning was finally underway.

The tournament consisted of 40 teams (24 men’s and 16 women’s) from 28 countries around the world. Fan bases from England, France, Argentina and other international countries helped bring passion and excitement all weekend long.

Fans traveled from near and far to enjoy the San Francisco Rugby World Cup Sevens at AT&T Park, don their home country’s colors and cheer on their respective teams. Throughout the course of the weekend, it became clear that rugby has a way of uniting people, as countries came together to celebrate the sport as a whole.

San Francisco, already a popular international destination and incredibly diverse city, welcomed tourists and rugby fans from around the world. The tournament generated a tremendous positive economic impact on San Francisco, as the city saw a significant increase in hotel room nights while local restaurants and bars were flooded with passionate fans leading up to, during and even after the tournament. Many fans flew in to not only enjoy the rugby action, but to experience the Bay Area and everything the region has to offer.

Tickets were purchased from more than 60 different countries around the world. Even within the state of California, more than two-thirds of buyers came from outside the nine Bay Area counties.

“San Francisco 2018 will be remembered as one of the great rugby events  —  a ground-breaking and special tournament that furthered the reach of rugby in the USA and around the world,” said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont. “It had everything:  world-class rugby sevens, an energetic and engaged audience, a superb venue and a wonderful atmosphere.”

Innovation, critical problem-solving, and superior logistical expertise were the keys to a successful event. Requiring a field conversion from baseball to rugby and a massive build-out of over 60 different areas inside and outside the park, this event not only scored big time but is a first for America. It involved three years of advanced planning and hinged on the producer’s ability to convince the commissioner of Major League Baseball to schedule the entire 2018 timetable around it.

Whether it was working with ballpark operations and facilities on the pitch and ballpark setup, or collaborating with Major League Baseball from a schedule perspective, Giants Enterprises was in the middle of it all, from start to finish. Even though this tournament had never been played stateside, Giants Enterprises knocked it out of the park with what would become the largest rugby event ever held in the United States.

Over the three-day span, 84 matches took place. With seven minute halves and a two-minute halftime, each match was over in just 16 minutes, with the next teams ready and waiting near the left-field foul pole to run onto the pitch as soon as the final buzzer sounded. It was nonstop action, unlike anything AT&T Park has ever seen before.

The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns took home the men’s and women’s titles, giving New Zealand the clean sweep. All Blacks Sevens made history, becoming the first team to win three Rugby World Cup Sevens titles.

Fans from across the globe clearly could sense the excitement at AT&T Park as nearly 9 million viewers tuned in to watch, including an average TAD (Total Audience Delivery) of 370,000 viewers for the men’s final. As the weekend came to a close, San Francisco made it known that the United States is now more ready than ever to host more rugby events. 

“Hitting 100,000 is terrific; it’s a hugely supported tournament in San Francisco itself and people have come here and really embraced the event,” said World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper. “The magnificent stadium here has played its role, too, and it’s been great that we’ve virtually filled it over the three days, so we’re thrilled about it.”

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