July 24 - A record 139 countries broadcast the International Rugby Board's (IRB) Seven World Series, giving the sport a massive boost as it begins its final push to be re-admitted to the Olympic Games.
The grand prix-style Series, won by South Africa, accumulated 3,323.5 hours of total airtime, an increase of 88 per cent on the 2007-2008 season, which was itself a record year.
The programmes were carried in 15 languages with a potential reach of 334 million homes worldwide, a 33 per cent increase on last year.
The report also shows that live coverage of the events increased by 10 per cent with a significant 67 per cent increase in ‘as live’ coverage.
Repeats and highlights added an additional 291 broadcast hours, an increase of 65 per cent on last year.
It follows record live coverage of the Rugby Sevens World Cup in Dubai in March, which also saw an increase with 379 hours screened, up from 222 hours in 2005.
Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of the IRB, said: “Rugby sevens continues to go from strength to strength.
"Its winning formula of exciting, competitive matches, world class players and spectacular action has proven to be a major hit with broadcasters around the world over the past decade.
"The figures in the report indicate that Sevens is hugely appealing to broadcasters and sponsors, while reaching new audiences worldwide.
“Sevens has delivered some exciting emerging teams to challenge the more traditional Rugby nations such as New Zealand, South Africa, England and Australia. Kenya, the USA and Portugal all featured strongly in the latest Series in addition to the likes of Fiji, Argentina and Samoa, all of whom have already established themselves at or near the top of the game.
“Today’s announcement marks another positive development for the IRB and highlights the global enthusiasm for rugby sevens at a time when the Game is reaching out for Olympic Games inclusion and illustrating to the Olympic Family its strong following around the world."
The IRB Sevens World Series comprised eight tournaments in Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, the USA, Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland.
Rugby is considered a strong favourite to be one of two sports added to the Olympic programme for the 2016 Games, along with golf.
The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board is due to recommend two sports at its next meeting in Berlin on August 13.
The full IOC Session will then vote on their choice in Copenhagen on October 9.
The other sports bidding are baseball, karate, roller sports, squash and softball.