DONALD CRAWFORD grew up in Melrose and as a rugby man it was inevitable that 7s would be in his blood. While the crowd sizes and prestige of the Borders circuit is no longer at the level of its heydays during the amateur era, the Kings of the 7s series continues to provide clubs in the region (and a few from Edinburgh) with an uplifting change of focus at the end of the season – not to mention a valuable financial boost for the hosts.
So, the 26-year-old was slightly perplexed when he moved to Edinburgh after finishing a finance and investment degree at Northumbria University and realised that the abbreviated game did not have the same profile in the capital. Which is the reason why Edinburgh City 7s – the rugby extravaganza which had a triumphant launch last year and returns next Saturday [8th June] – came about.
“After the Edinburgh 10s shut down, I felt Edinburgh lacked a good 7s tournament in the city centre, so I decided that rather than sitting on my hands and moaning about the situation I should grab the bull by the horns,” explains Crawford. “The initial plan was to have it at Raeburn Place, but Edinburgh Accies were getting organised for their development and with the number of teams showing interest it made sense to move to Inverleith Park where there are four pitches instead of two – and we just took it from there.”
Crawford doesn’t have a background in event management. He studied finance and investment at university, then moved to Edinburgh where he worked as a money broker for two years, before returning to his native Melrose to take on a role in his family’s building business last year. So, his involvement with Edinburgh City 7s has been a steep learning curve – but an enjoyable one.
“There was a lot of planning, a lot of hard work and a lot of thinking on your feet to deal with unexpected challenges along the way,” he reflects. “We’ve been very lucky that people with experience in this sort of thing have been a big help, particularly Ruairi O’Keefe and the guys at Rok Agency. I think there is a general support amongst the rugby community because they see that we are doing something positive to help grow the game.”
“We were really delighted with how the first year went – it was great fun and a very positive experience – so we’re looking forward to being even bigger and better this year.
“There’s a lot of simple things we’ve been able to improve, like having more scoreboards so that people can keep track of what is happening. That might sound like a really obvious thing but in amongst all the organising which went on last year it was something we overlooked. We’re learning as we go, which is really exciting because hopefully it means that the experience we are able to offer both players and supporters gets better and better every year.
“The big step forward we have taken this year is the increase in the number of teams,” he adds. “The Women’s tournament has grown from five to 10 teams, the Social tournament has gone from 12 to 20 teams [with a few more sides on the reserve list], and we are delighted that the Samurai and Wailers invitational sides – two really big names in the 7s world – are taking part in the Elite tournament next Saturday. It really boosts the profile of the whole event to have an Elite line-up as strong as that.
“I can promise you that it is going to be a great day out. The Elite competition will provide some top-class rugby, but there is going to be something there for everyone. There is the family zone for the kids, dodgeball games and street-food stalls; plus the Belhaven Beer Tent, Pilgrims Gin Garden, Rekorderlig Cider Garden and live music all day.”
Tickets for Edinburgh City 7s are available HERE.