Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dan Lyle Talks US Collegiate Sevens

A few weeks back the US rugby world with rocked with the news that there would be a collegiate sevens championship, and it would be aired live on NBC. Our good friend Dallen Stanford from UR7's.com caught up with the man in charge behind the scenes, Super Man Dan Lyle and asked him a few questions about the importance for this event, not just for sevens but for rugby on the whole in the United States. Check it out.

UR7s.com’s Dallen Stanford caught up with USA Sevens LLC Director of Tournaments Dan Lyle to learn more about the much hyped inagural American Collegiate Sevens event, taking place Columbus Crew Stadium from 4-6 June.

This is an event which is causing ripples in the States with NBC and Universal set to broadcast action live.

Dallen Stanford: Dan, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to UR7s.com about the exciting Sevens Collegiate Championship.

For the past few years your organization – USA Sevens LLC – has run a very successful USA Sevens leg on the IRB Sevens World Series. How did the Vegas Sevens compare to past tournaments that you hosted? How many years is the Vegas deal locked in?

Dan Lyle: We had a great first year in Vegas – and have another year on the books coming February 12 and 13th 2011 – although we are waiting on final confirmation from the IRB. The city of Las Vegas is 100% behind the event and there is something to do for rugby fans no matter who you are or where you are from. Vegas feels like rugby sevens and we have shown the community there how great our sport is. The entire city wants to get behind the event now, so the first year was a great success that will grow in the future.

DS : How did USA Sevens LLC come up with the idea of a Collegiate Sevens event?

DL: We as a company are looking to expand our assets to satisfy what all event promoters or sports developers know – multiple events are what sponsors and stakeholders want and need. In our search of creating sevens rugby properties NBC stepped forward as wanting to be a partner. They feel rugby is the next big sport and they believe that sevens rugby is the right product for the American market. Together we are looking to build an event that the general sports fan in America can relate to and thus build the value of our sport. Hence the college brands that were invited for this first year to get the process started.

Also our Championship Cup Series was a huge success this first year (won by your side Belmont Shore), and again we see this product growing through the national rugby sevens infrastructure moving forward. We want as many teams competing as possible, and all of them travelling to Vegas for a true international sevens experience at the end.

DS: Is USA Rugby involved? I know that they have introduced a similar top-16 Collegiate Championship at 15s. Will this sevens tournament interfere with the All Star 15-a-side Collegiate build-up?

DL: We are working closely with USA Rugby as well as the newly formed Collegiate committee to see what the long-term plan and goals they are creating needs. We are working with the All Star coaches to minimise travel for the players participating in both 15s and 7s competitions this year. And as we are an officially sanctioned event by USA Rugby, we will look to support and develop this competition with them moving forward.

DS: Sevens is definitely where America’s future stars will emerge. I know USA head coach Al Caravelli will be on hand to scout players. Have you been in contact with the Eagles coach about the event?

DL: Al and many of the top minds for sevens in the US will be taking part at different levels for the event. We are working closely to fulfill the NBC technical requirements, the teams training needs and our on ground needs – if you are at the event you will see many of the familiar faces that are taking rugby forward particularly in sevens. It will be a true showcase for all the folks that have put so much into the sports of sevens over the last number of years.

DS: How did you choose the 16 teams that will take part for the 2010 event, and what will be the process for next year?

DL: The goal of this event is to grow the game strategically using qualities that the American public knows in the arena of national sports. The choice of known college brands with great rugby was where we focused. We know that there are many universities in the USA with great rugby programs, and we want them all to be a part of this event moving forward.

For this first year, it was important to invite a team that represented a good geographical spread of the country, to show the public how nationally developed our sport of rugby is.

Moving forward we want to partner with all university programs, via USA Rugby, to develop regional qualifiers for this event, that if they win they will move onto the Collegiate Invitational in Columbus. As I have said already, this is the start of the process to develop the game of sevens nationally here in the USA, and hopefully end with a gold medal in Rio in 2016!

DS: Rugby clubs all over the world have struggled to secure finances for their seasons. Are teams in this event responsible for travel and hotel?

DL: No, USA Sevens believe in developing professional events in which the teams are properly taken care of. Similar to the Las Vegas IRB Sevens event, we will provide each team (including support staff) air travel, hotel and full catering everyday they are in Columbus.

We will also provide the same service that we do in Las Vegas for the event officials and referees, as well as all volunteers and staff that help us by working at the event. Most collegiate events in the States work this way and we are creating a top class Collegiate event, as we believe our athletes deserve it and will help them be the best that they can be on the pitch.

DS: Creating exposure to rugby for the American audience is vital in the games future growth. How did USA Sevens LLC secure NBC and Universal Sports to air the event live?

DL: NBC are looking at the rugby space, as are other networks we have worked with over the last 5 years. NBC, however, have a track record through the Olympics and other major start up events in building sports from the ground up here in the USA. They see and understand the value in rugby and want to be the network they brings the sport to the national USA audience. They are showing the event LIVE on TV for 4 hours each day Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th of June (2 hours LIVE on NBC Universal followed 2 hours live on NBC 4-6pm each day).

NBC have created a massive marketing campaign around this event that has never been seen before in rugby in the USA. They will begin this educational process by airing ads nationally across the country starting April 25th – and these ads will be ‘rugby education – get to know the sport.’

As I have said the university brands competing are known throughout the nation and this promotion will teach the sport to the greater public. What is important for rugby fans is to attend the event and make it a great television spectacle for all the USA to see.

This event is a litmus for the sport of sevens at the Collegiate level here in America. It is critical that the rugby players and supporter in this country support the event and in turn the NBC production. Once we show them how great the sport is this first year, NBC will support our sport and all our competitions moving forward!

DS: Your role for this event as well as the Vegas IRB tournament is ‘Tournament Director’. What does that entail?

DL: The tournament director manages or marries the technical side (playing, production) and the commercial side (sponsors, ticketing, marketing etc). He also manages many of the external relationships from the stadium to the city and its partners to how we interface with USA Rugby and the IRB. As a senior manager I am only as good as the relationships we build and the team we build around the event.

DS: It has been a pleasure speaking with you Dan! We are super excited for the event, and wish you all the best!

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