Queenstown in sevens heaven – for now

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National Sevens hosting rights are being put up for grabs, which could deal a funding blow to Wakatipu sports clubs. 

The New Zealand Rugby Union is making the tournament hosting rights available for 2014 and onwards. 

Other venues like Mount Maunganui, Nelson and Taupo are understood to be interested. 

Queenstown hosts the two-day event at the Recreation Ground this weekend for a ninth successive year – and has the rights sewn up for next year too. 

If Queenstown loses the event, it would deal a bitter blow to Wakatipu and Otago sports clubs – their volunteers play a vital role helping out, and in return their respective clubs get a much-needed funding boost from a share of the proceeds. 

As fans party at the sevens this weekend, more than 100 sports club stalwarts will work behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Last year, the clubs involved – along with Otago Country rugby and the Southern Lakes youth rugby scholarship – benefited from a $48,000 hand-out. 

Members from the host Wakatipu Rugby Club provide liaison officers for the 16 teams and bar-tending manpower. 

The Arrowtown Rugby Club helps with on-field security, Queenstown Ice Hockey Club members do the clean-up and Wakatipu and Arrowtown junior club members act as ball boys. The Clutha Valley Rugby Club, from South Otago, has manned the gate since the first Queenstown tournament in 2004. 

Volunteers are coordinated by organising committee Sevens with Altitude. 

Sevens with Altitude chairman Clark Frew hopes Queenstown can hang onto the event. 

“No one was sniffing around till it became a success here,” Frew says. 

Frew points out the advantages of volunteer labour: “Why pay someone to do something that an organisation of volunteers can do, and then that organisation can be the benefactor. 

“If there’s a very wet Sunday, for example, and we haven’t got the crowd there, we’d still end up paying the clean-up people, the security guards, their contracted rate. 

“People volunteering may not get as much back for their club if the tournament doesn’t make very much money.”
A moment’s silence will also be held for the resort’s ultimate volunteer – organising committee member Glenn “Scooter” Reid, who died of cancer last month. 

Entry fee climbs 

The entry fee for this weekend’s rugby sevens is doub­­­ling from $5 to $10 – though under-15s still go free. 

The price rise is due to a squeeze on corporate funding and increased costs, organising committee chairman Clark Frew says. 

“It’s been a lot harder to get corporate dollars in sponsorship and taking tents – that’s the economic environment.” 

Organisers have to fund 16 teams to travel to Queenstown along with their accommodation, transport and food costs while here. 

Only some of that cost is met by teams paying the $4500 entry fee. 

Frew says the tournament wouldn’t survive without sponsors, spearheaded by Pub Charity, which contributes about $200,000.