The Roar
The Roar


European thieves North American rugby from SANZAAR

USA Eagles' Mike Petri (9). USA ProRugby has kicked off. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Roar Guru
20th March, 2016
2544 Reads

There is an event that transpired over the past weeks that should have filled the powers of SANZAAR not so much with mild tremors of disquiet, but abject horror.

In the shop window of New Jersey, two English premiership clubs staged a game, with the purpose described by their chief executive: “There are ambitious plans to grow rugby in the States, and this is the latest stage in that strategy.”

That’s right, the European clubs plan to take over the US in place of SANZAAR. Not only that, but they have already acquired a TV deal to spread their gospel, with NBC screening a live match to 85 million Americans.

“This new agreement is an historic milestone for us. It takes the Aviva brand of rugby to a bigger audience than we ever had in the US.”

An England international added the further grim statement: “Hopefully over the next few seasons rugby can have a similar impact to the NFL in London and attract a big audience.”

But slow down, wasn’t SANZAAR supposed to be the body to absorb American rugby into its fold, with its superior league, and haven’t ARU executives been planning Super rugby teams in the US for decades?

It seems as if the old amateur thinking has surfaced once again in the fatal sin of complacency. Let’s take our time, and no one else will possess the courage to step in and pillage our destined markets. Let’s manoeuvre at the snail’s pace of five yearly TV deals: why rush ourselves? Perhaps a team or so might be added some time in the 2020s.

Except by then the greedy, dynamic European clubs will have stormed in and plundered the market wholesale.


If SANZAAR wishes to claim North American rugby it cannot wait until 2021, but must act next year. It needs to plant Super teams in both the USA and Canada, and not one but two in each, one on each American coast to ward off attempts by Europe to plant its flag on the eastern coast, by arguing it is closer to them.

Teams in Los Angeles, New York or Boston, Vancouver and Toronto need to be planted in 2017.

The formula is simple. Halve the national teams in squads of perfectly equal strength, fill the rest with some cross-code converts, preferably of American or Canadian grandparentage, and then some other players.

It had been pointed out that such a conference would vastly reduce travel, as a separate American conference would be self-contained, rather than a single team being tagged on to a distant conference as is the case with the Jaguares now.

The TV deals would be amended mid-contract with the agreement of the companies, which would obviously be forthcoming in the case of such windfalls as the US and Canada. The TV companies should be approached immediately.

It should be made quite clear now, whoever wins the US market will control the future of global rugby in perpetuity. It is a race for conquest and one that if SANZAAR lose, will condemn them to insignificance and allow Europe to dominate eternally with its two-dimensional game and raiding of southern hemisphere talent.

This is a moment of existential crisis for southern hemisphere rugby. Argentina and Japan are excellent expansion territories, but as nothing compared to the riches in store in North America.


If Super Rugby teams are established immediately, America and Canada along with their enormous potential wealth will be within SANZAAR’s grasp, as it will be obvious the product is in a completely different universe of quality from European club rugby.

As they grow in strength they can be admitted to the Rugby Championship, not the Six Nations. The resulting riches will allow SANZAAR to save its stars from European theft and plough endless millions into the game at home.

But wait until the next TV deal and the grand European larceny will have been accomplished, the storehouse will be bare, and SANZAAR will look have nothing to do but look on.