Why Rugby Sevens players may no longer be dressed to the nines

The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial concern for the vast majority of us and many of the sports we love were badly hit. Clubs have had to adjust their strategies going forward, with their far less transfer activity than before, particularly of big names.

However, most of us tend to expect the players themselves to remain largely unaffected, with their lifestyles becoming only minimally less lavish. This is not the case for the stars of Rugby Sevens, with the RFU cutting funding for the England national team. With less than a year remaining prior to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics – the pinnacle of the sport – the athletes who had trained so hard to earn their spots can be forgiven for feeling the rug has been pulled out from underneath them.

Equally, with RFU losses projected to be above £100 million, such a drastic act has some logical reasoning. Nonetheless, it has surprised many and left the very real possibility that Team GB in 2020 may be lacking any English representatives. This is the same Team GB that achieved Silver in the event in Rio 2016 and had aspirations of going one further this time around.

All this led to Dan Norton, the highest Sevens try-scorer of all time, stating that he fears the sport may regress back to being solely an amateur event. Many stars have in fact been forced to find alternative employment, be that in the fifteen-a-side game, or, in the case of England vice-captain Phil Burgess, becoming the Head of Rugby at a school. Through such ventures, in addition to campaigning for help from British businesses and other sponsors, players like Norton hope to self-fund their Olympic dreams.

Having to come through such adversity, in terms of preparation mismatches with other nations, will make that illustrious medal harder to come by, but I am sure it will taste much sweeter as well, should it arrive.

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Luke Saward

January 2021
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