Dubai: Emirates is weighing the possibility of organising a regional invitational rugby competition following the cancellation of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, that was scheduled to be held in the last week of Novermber.
On Wednesday, World Rugby announced the cancellation of the first two rounds of the 2020-2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, namely the opening Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens (November 26-28) and the second round in Cape Town, South Africa (December 4-6) due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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Although the opening round stands cancelled, Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens Tournament Director Tom Burwell has been speaking of ongoing plans for a regional invitational competition.
“While we are unable to deliver the famous Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens in its traditional format in 2020, we are currently exploring options to safely deliver an invitation tournament in December which will be invitational and club level regionally focused across rugby, netball and cricket,” Burwell has said in a press release.
“We will announce further details in due course next month,” the top official has added.
The Dubai borders remain open to welcome visitors and tourists to travel to the emirate in keeping with recommended health and safety practices with Emirates Airline currently flying to destinations worldwide. With regional and local events beginning to open back up in the UAE, the organisers are exploring the opportunity to deliver a regionally focused invitational/club event in 2020.
Last week, the world body for rugby had announced the cancellation of the remainder of this year’s World Rugby Sevens Series due to the coronavirus. Tournaments in Langford in Canada, London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong will not be played this year with the men’s and women’s titles both awarded to pacesetters New Zealand.
Hong Kong had been due to be the final stop of the re-jigged sevens calendar after it was moved from its traditional April slot because of the pandemic. The Hong Kong Sevens, which has been held every year since 1976, is an important source of revenue and prestige for the city which has also endured severe political upheaval over the past year.
Meanwhile, the continued global uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of several events in 2020. It is the first time in 51 years that the premier rugby tournament has been cancelled since its inception in 1970. The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens marked its 50th golden jubilee anniversary celebrations at the end of 2019.
In its official statement, World Rugby said: “After a comprehensive consultation process and constructive dialogue with the host organisations, it has been decided that the combined men’s and women’s Dubai and Cape Town rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021, which were provisionally scheduled for November 26-28 and December 4-6, 2020 respectively, will not take place due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The decisions were taken in line with relevant government and international public health authority advice and with the health and well-being of the rugby community and the wider public taking precedence. Both hosts are due to return to a full series schedule beyond this season.”
The tournament organisers, Emirates Airline remains appreciative of all the efforts from World Rugby, teams, unions and players alongside the global and regional stakeholders in seeking to find a way to deliver the tournament in 2020.
“We are of course disappointed not to be hosting the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens for the first time in 51 years, but we understand the extraordinary circumstances surrounding today’s cancellation of the opening tournaments of the new season,” Gary Chapman, President, Emirates Group Services and Dnata, said.
“With 28 national teams from 18 countries on six continents, the current pandemic has created a unique challenge to logistics with each country facing differing levels of restrictions on travel around the world. The UAERF has been working tirelessly with Emirates, World Rugby and local sports governing bodies for the successful delivery of another astonishing version of Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens in 2020, regrettably, the global sport events calendar is witnessing a massive restructure as a result of COVID19 Pandemic distressing impact on all our living aspects. UAERF believes player welfare is paramount, we totally support this decision which serves keeping every participant in the safe zone” Faisal Abdulaziz Al Zarooni, UAERF Vice Chairman, noted.