Suncorp Stadium’s Latest Sporting Revolution

The Sports Revolution is here. The trickle of sports format modification has now become more torrential. Big Bash Cricket, Fast Four Tennis, Nitro Athletics, as well as five-a-side football and five-a-side hockey are all being embraced by participants, spectators and television audiences in 2016/2017. In just 5 years The Australian BBL Cricket is now one of the biggest league competitions in the world.

Rugby’s two variations, Seven and Ten-a-side are not new. The Hong Kong Seven’s, perhaps the most well-known tournament in the abridged seven-a-side format, was first staged in 1976. The ten-a-side version of the game has its origins firmly in Asia, and it may come as some surprise that in fact Malaysia lays claim to the first Rugby Ten’s competition.

The latest to join the revolution, in the ten man format of Rugby, is the Brisbane Global Tens featuring 16 club teams from Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Japan, France and South Africa. This marked the first time world class club teams have come together from around the planet for this incarnation of Rugby, and was played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

With more players than Seven-a-side the games are much tighter, scores are closer and the results for nearly every match are decided in the last play. It really is thrilling stuff. Rugby Union has always been dogged by criticism of its infuriating stop start nature. The tens format seeks to unite the free, fast paced and flowing panache of seven-a-side Rugby and the more traditional, fifteen-a-side with its intense physicality.

The Brisbane Global Tens had a big task. Bring the Rugby faithful out in February and succeed by doing the exact opposite of the other ‘Revolutionaries’ – ask fans to come out for 16 hours over two days. But it works, the games are twenty minutes in total across two halves, perhaps a little short and could benefit from being pushed to the half hour. But they are back to back, and therefore its almost nonstop world class action all day.

Suncorp Stadium Brisbane Tens

Queensland is no stranger to hot summer days and the weekend of the Brisbane Global Tens happened to be this summer’s hottest at nearly 40 degrees Celsius on both days. Impressively, the stadium responded very well to the heat. Event staff with water guns wandered through the stands and kept the crowds at a comfortable temperature, misting cooling machines were dotted around the concourses and ice cold slushies kept fans happy throughout the day of play.

The western stand was extremely comfortable in the 40-degree weather, the stadiums open roof design kept a strong breeze flowing over the crowd for most of the weekend. Eastern stand patrons ended up getting a lot more sun than they bargained for and stadium organizers reacted by opening up the shaded upper tiers so that eastern ticket holders could escape the heat if they wanted to. Sadly, this opened the event up to some media scrutiny as on television the stadium appeared empty when in fact it was well over 50 percent capacity on both days. The diehard Waikato Chief’s fans stood fast, packing the sun scorched eastern lower tier at the end of the weekend to watch their team claim the inaugural Global Tens trophy in a predictably all New Zealand final against the Canterbury Crusaders, the final score 12-5.

Due to the multi game format of the event fans found themselves with enough downtime between the 20 minute games to walk the concourse, venture to the Fanatics Bar for a nice cold beer or visit the refreshment stands a lot more frequently than they would during a typical union match. Formats like the Global Tens are a huge windfalls to stadiums, as their thousands of fans are relying nearly wholly on the stadium hospitality facilities for two full days. These all day events are a huge boost to the stadium economy, with more codes looking for media friendly events such as the Global Tens format we can expect to see the creation of more tournaments like this in the years to come.

A two day event also lends nicely to Sponsorship Activation. Brand facetime is considerably longer than that of the common 2-3 hour sporting events in Australia. The two biggest brands at the Brisbane Global Tens were Heineken and Spotify. Heineken have always done well with event overlay and Suncorp Stadium was no exception. The venue’s northern end featured the Heineken Bar, a destination for fans arriving, stepping out of the venue for a breather, and even for un-ticketed visitors, providing shade, refreshment and live viewing on the big screen of all the action in the stadium.

Suncorp Stadium Brisbane Tens

Spotify brought their Crowd DJ App to the venue for the two days, allowing fans to download the voting app or use any one of the many activated Spotify Tablet Screens located around the stadium to vote for the tournaments live soundtrack. Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline sounds wonderful being sung by 20,000 rugby fans, especially when they voted together to sing it.

Fans of Rugby really get to let their hair down at an event like this. Costumes and singalongs are all par for the course here. A light hearted, joyful vibe right around Suncorp Stadium suggests that most are here as fans of the sport not just their team. In fact the mood is infectious.

Typically, Suncorp Stadium operated superbly, and while these locals of Brisbane Populous journos may be a little parochially biased, it’s hard to deny the Stadium’s impressive functionality for fans. Entry was a breeze. Food, drinks and toilet waiting times were minimal and never overwhelming. It’s a top spot to spend two days in the Queensland sun and celebrate one of our oldest sports in a refreshingly new(ish) way.

The Global Tens has been secured in Brisbane for the next four years, and its future does indeed look bright. No doubt it will eventually lure more teams and may one day soon become truly global with the inclusion of Rugby power house Great Britain. Here’s hoping.

Jake Martin & Sime Crossley

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