World Rugby has announced record-breaking fan figures for the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, after another compelling season on and off the field.   

The 2016-17 series, the first after rugby sevens’ Olympic Games debut at Rio, saw massive crowds in cities including Dubai, Cape Town, Sydney, Vancouver, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and London as the total attendance over the 10 rounds increased by almost ten per cent, to 734,000 fans. The total social media community reached 120 million across multiple languages as the series broadcast to a global TV audience in over 100 countries. 

The figures reflect the increased popularity of a sport that saw its fan-base increase by almost 17 million people in six key territories and as much as an estimated 30 million worldwide (Neilsen), as sevens basked in the golden halo of a high-octane Olympic Games debut. 

With new, entertainment-hungry fans looking for an immersive, immediate experience, social media was sevens’ playground with innovations, live content and fan-created content proving a hit in conversation: 

  • @WorldRugby7s audience engagment grew by almost 50% over the season, while video views increased by 15 per cent to 68.5 million, driven by Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat as sevens inspired a new generation.
  • With World Rugby operating in four languages, the Spanish and French audiences grew to almost 150,000 fans on Instagram, representing over 20 per cent of the total following.
  • Sevens geographic reach extended to more than 200 countries and regions with the Japanese language site increasing traffic by more than 50% during the season.

The announcement comes days after the IOC Executive Board recommended that rugby sevens continue to be an OIympic sport beyond Tokyo 2020, reflecting the sport’s alignment with Agenda 2020 as a fan-first sport that fills stadia and attracts a new young audience. 

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Dream Team 2016-17
Seven players made the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2016-17 Dream Team

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “These record-breaking figures paint a picture of global success and growth as rugby sevens continues to go from strength to strength, on and off the field, following our Olympic Games debut. 

“Significantly these figures demonstrate that rugby sevens is successfully reaching and attracting a new generation of fans via social media who interact with our tournaments and our biggest stars.  They also reflect a sport that continues to attract commercial partners such as series title sponsor HSBC, DHL and more recently TAG Heuer. 

“As we look to Tokyo 2020 and beyond, we will continue to innovate on and off the field to ensure that the players and fans are at the very heart of the sevens experience.” 

Click here to view the series dates and venues for next season. 

Giles Morgan, Global Head of Sponsorship and Events, HSBC, said: "Rugby Sevens has proven its potential as a growing global sport. Packed out stadiums have given fans all over the world an incredible live experience. The opportunity now lies in continuing to translate the fantastic atmosphere in-stadia to audiences all over the world ahead of Tokyo 2020."