From what started 48 years ago with a small group of British expats at Dubai Exiles RFC, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens has grown into one the world’s premier Sevens events.
Back in 1970, there were just a few players and a handful of fans scattered along the touchline. The Staffordshire Regiment were the first ever Dubai Rugby Sevens champions.
Throughout the 70s, new innovations made the tournament bigger and better every year. In 1987 Emirates Airline started their association with the Dubai Sevens, and by 1996 Dubai was hosting a qualifying round of the World Cup Sevens. Not bad going!
Three years later, in 1999, it moved up another level, hosting a leg of the International Rugby Board's Sevens World Series, now the HSBCWorld Rugby Sevens Series. After that, the tournament boomed. By 2006, with a 32,000 capacity at the Al Awir venue, the Dubai Rugby Sevens had officially tripled in size since 2001. And when it moved to the Emirates' purpose-built venue - The Sevens Stadium – in 2008 it just kept on growing, with attendances - now over 50,000 daily - setting new highs every year.
In 2012, Dubai hosted the first event of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, won by New Zealand.
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens is the longest running sports event in the Middle East, and is well established as Dubai's biggest sporting event of the year, voted Dubai's 'Favourite Sporting Event' at the What's On Awards for 14 of the last 15 years
As well as drawing in record-breaking crowds, broadcasting the event has become huge. The Dubai Sevens is broadcast to bigger global audiences every year, proof of just how popular sevens rugby has become. In 2016, Dubai recorded over 1,100 broadcast hours for both the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and the HSBC World Rugby Women Sevens Series.
Improvements every year both on and off the pitch - including entertainment, a great family experience, and a Rugby Village that just keeps on getting bigger and better - mean the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens looks set to stay one of the Middle East's top sporting and social events. We think you’ll agree we’ve come a long way since the early days, when just a few players took part and spectators could be counted one by one!