'London Sevens is Saved' - LIT7s Festival Comes to Wimbledon & Replaces Cancelled Twickenham 7s - Ruck

‘London Sevens is Saved’ – LIT7s Festival Comes to Wimbledon & Replaces Cancelled Twickenham 7s

When the news broke that the annual Twickenham Sevens event would not be taking place this year, rugby fans across the UK capital were left devastated by the news. A longstanding tradition for many, sevens rugby fans would don their best fancy dress, descend on the stadium known as HQ, and enjoy the sun-soaked sevens with a choice beverage in hand.

The rebranded HSBC SVNS series announced in July 2023, that their new world tour would no longer include the home of English rugby on the globe-trotting itinerary. All hope seemed to be lost for rugby fans across London, as they began to pack away their bucket hats and tune in to the sevens from their living rooms. Thankfully, Founder of Lit7s Ellaine Gelman was on hand to bring her rugby festival to London, and save those in the UK capital from a Summer without the annual spectacular.

LIT7s has been running for 12 years, and brings together a litany of top international rugby talent for a blockbuster day of sevens action. Having been a mainstay in the Acton for more than a decade, next month, LIT7s will come to Wimbledon for the first time and host a one-day festival at the home of AFC Wimbledon, with an expected 9,000 fans in attendance.

Plans can resume for those eyeing up a trip to London across the Spring Bank Holiday, with the date booked in for Saturday May 25th. Even the locality of the festival is similar, as the tournament will reside in the South West of London. Speaking exclusively with RUCK, Ellaine Gelman discussed the need to a sevens festival in London, and the exciting plans in place.

“I think it’s been something we’ve seen a lot of value in over a long period of time. And we never really had the idea of doing, I guess, a big sevens tournament, because you always had London sevens. And, maybe it was something in the back of our mind, but we we sort of catered for the elite side at our existing tournaments.

“Then when we found out last year that, London sevens wasn’t happening at Twickenham. To be honest, we were pretty shocked. I mean, it wasn’t something anybody was expecting. And we just thought it was such a shame. It’s the only opportunity for people to view high level rugby in a stadium setting in the UK, not even just in England.

“So, we started the research for this about nine months ago. And it took seven months to get approval from the RFU and World Rugby. So it was a very difficult process involve getting a lot of people on board to try to push it through.”

The tournament will host both men’s and women’s international sides, as well as famous invitational teams from the wider world of rugby. Each team will represent a world nation, with the current confirmed list of sides running as follows: British Army (Great Britain), Jamaica Crocs (Jamaica), Shoguns (United Kingdom), Rugby for Heroes (Fiji), NAV 7s USA Development (USA) and the Ramblin’ Jesters (Ireland). There is plenty of star power within the invitational teams, such as Rugby for Heroes, who’s patron is none other than England legend Mike Tindall.

“The way that we’re doing the tournament, is every team is going to be representing a country. So it’s similar to London Sevens. So for example, the British Army is representing Great Britain, the Shoguns are representing the United Kingdom, USA Falcons will obviously be USA, Jamaica is Jamaica. Then we’ve got our charity team, which is Rugby for Heroes, and Mike Tyndall is patron of theirs and he and Tom Varndell will be coaching them. There’ll be representing Fiji.

“So that’s the men’s teams. So it’s eight men’s teams and four women’s teams. And then on the women’s side, we’ve got Hammerhead who have a bunch of GB sevens players, so there’ll be representing Great Britain, we’ve got Shogun, which is Samurai Sevens, there’ll be representing the UK.”

There is also the exciting inclusion of the Africa Lionesses, with the combined continent coming together for the LIT7s competition. There is no understating the appeal of the sevens festival atmosphere. A sea of rugby fans all enjoying the elite level sport on display, as they bask in the Summer sun customary for South West London. LIT7s is all about fan enjoyment, with the vibrant Wimbledon crowd set to resemble a far cry from the hushed tones and strawberries and cream of the town’s famous tennis courts. LIT7s is set to bring the party from the get go, with plenty of entertainment set to spill into the night after the on-field action has come to a close.

The fancy dress theme is ‘heroes’, which partners up with the charitable sponsor of the tournament – Rugby for Heroes. The attending fans are encouraged to dress up from anything they deem to be a hero, from superheroes to firefighters and everything in between. Gelman has also booked a special musical act to close out the party, with none other than former England and Wasps back-row James Haskell on decks to provide the tunes for the afterparty.

“We want to keep all the same aspects that people love about sevens, and have that exciting atmosphere with fancy dress and the DJs and everything.” Gelman added. “But maybe, introduce some new things where we are inducing the spectators in the audience to the players. This is something that, I don’t think they’ve really done traditionally at the tournaments and something we do at our LIT7s tournaments.”

“For this kind of our current culture, which is very much a TikTok, bite size media audience that’s used to kind of short content. That’s exciting, I think rugby seven is absolutely the right answer. I think a lot of people will hopefully come that have never seen a rugby match before, or have never seen rugby sevens, and I think anybody can be highly entertained by this. We’re going to have a party stand, we’re going to have a family stand. And then we have general admission.

“It’s a really safe environment and a great environment to bring your kids, and then it’s also a great place if you want to go with your friends and go crazy and party. So I think it lends itself to everything. It’s a very long day. It (the rugby tournament) sarts at 9:30 in the morning, goes until 7:45 In the evening with a big after party, the DJ is going to be James Haskell in the evening.

“There’s something for everybody, the family supporters can come in the morning, when it’s better for them and maybe leave around 3 or 4pm. The party goers can come at 11:00 and then stay out all night. Some people might just want to come for the after party.

“It really is kind an event that would cater to many different crowds. But I think what we’re excited about is to bring that party atmosphere, and this kind of high level of Rugby Sevens to London. I think, not to have an event like this would be a real shame and a real tragedy, actually. So we will do everything we can to make that happen.”