Organizers may struggle to sell all the tickets to the World Cup Sevens in Moscow next year, the chief executive of the International Rugby Board said Wednesday.
Russia will host its first major rugby tournament when the World Cup Sevens takes place at Moscow’s 78,360-capacity Luzhniki stadium in June.
Russia’s national football team and major club sides rarely sell out the stadium, which hosted the 1980 Olympics, leading to concerns that a minority sport such as rugby may attract even fewer spectators.
“There’s a possibility that the stadium could maybe not be completely full,” IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said.
“It is a bold and ambitious project to fill a stadium as big as this stadium, but we feel there is a real novelty factor around this event, there is a very special atmosphere around this event, it’s a family atmosphere, it’s a fun atmosphere.”
Business has been brisk since tickets for the event last month, Russian Rugby Federation president Vyacheslav Kopiev said.
“There are 2,500 tickets sold already and 27,000 tickets ordered,” he said, adding that he expected a final total of 10,000 tickets to be bought by foreign fans.
As with other major sporting events in Russia such as the 2014 Winter Olympics and 2008 Champion League football final, plans are being made to ease Russia’s strict visa system to allow fans to attend more easily.
“We’re not sure yet what the simplified mechanisms will be, but we’ve had assurances from the federal authorities that there will be a loosening or an easing of those procedures,” Gosper said, adding that talks with Russian officials had been positive.
“We can’t announce anything on that front, but we’re encouraged by the conversations we had yesterday.”
Gosper said he did not believe rugby sevens' raucous crowd atmosphere would be hurt by Russian laws banning alcohol at sports events.
"We don't think that you need alcohol to have that festive atmosphere. There's going to be a lot of music, a day of great rugby."
Kopiev added that he had been told by officials that fans may be able to receive a visa at the Russian border, a change from typical procedures requiring potential visitors to submit their application through an embassy in advance.