The war of sport

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014

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There's an intriguing war going on in New Zealand sport at the moment and it's fascinating to watch it unfold.

It's a battle that's not playing out on the field, instead it's a showdown of officialdom, ideas, marketing nous and I'm sure a touch of ego tossed in from both parties.

Rugby versus league, Wellington versus Auckland - take your pick.

I'm talking about the tug-of-war between the IRB rugby sevens tournament in Wellington on February 8 and 9 and the inaugural NRL Nines league tournament to be played in Auckland a week later on February 15 and 16.

Publicly the two organisations are not entering into a war of words but it's quite obvious there's a scrap going on as to which one can dominate the sporting market at that time of year.

They are competing for spectators and media interest and the press releases from both sides in my email inbox highlight just how hard they are trying to push their case at the moment.

Yesterday Sevens Wellington issued a release saying that from today 3000 tickets will be available for those that just want to attend one day of the two-day tournament, instead of having to buy a two-day pass.

''Tournament general manager Marty Donoghue said due to a high demand from fans, a limited number of one-day tickets would be available from Ticketek as of [today],'' the statement said.

Call me cynical but there's a whole heap of spin attached to that message.

I would suggest tickets are not in as high demand as they are making out - in fact, the organisers are simply looking for a different way to ensure it is still a sellout with interest lacking compared to previous years.

They will still most likely achieve that sellout by the time the tournament rolls around but it has been a much tougher job for them this year.

Every year when the Wellington Sevens tickets went on sale in September the story would centre around how many minutes it took for them to be all snapped up.

If you missed that 15-minute window it would then come down to whether you knew anyone who could get their hands on some of the tickets that did not go on sale to the general public.

It is four months on from when the tickets went on general sale and they are still pushing sales.

It could be just one heck of a coincidence but it seems the instigation of the NRL Nines has had an effect and they are going head to head.

Some groups who are looking for a weekend away at that time of year are giving the Auckland event a go this year it would seem.

What will be interesting is which of the tournaments grip the country in the long term.

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What Wellington has is a history of success in attracting people to their event and showing them a good time, while the NRL Nines is still a baby as far as sporting events go.

Wellingtonhas set the bar high.However, what the NRL Nines has on its side is star power.

You can either go watch, say, Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson run the cutter in the NRL Nines tournament or DJ Forbes doing the business for the New Zealand sevens team.

In between watching Forbes and his troops play you might have to sit through Kenya versus Spain while after Johnson's antics you could be watching the Melbourne Storm take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

When you factor in star appeal it leans heavily the way of the Auckland event.

What will probably determine whether the NRL Nines continues to be a success in years to come and pulls people to Auckland is just how the nine-a-side format plays out.

There are some doubters as to whether nine-a-side rugby league will be the exciting spectacle that it is being marketed as but only time will tell on that front.

- The Southland Times

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