So it’s been a while since I last posted anything. Life’s been unbelievably busy this year but I have a gap so have decided to jump back into the swings of things by introducing you to Major League Rugby.
So, some may recall the advent of PRO Rugby in late 2015 and inaugural (and only) season in 2016. Well, that’s go the way of the dodo. A failed experiment that lacked the necessary parts to become a sustainable model. An apparent step forward before two back.
But from its failure, rises a new player. One that’s been working away to bring its own brand to market since later 2015 itself.
That player is Major League Rugby.
Formed by a number of private interests linked to in some cases existing clubs and run as its own separate league organisation established to administer the league’s operation.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Major League Rugby is looking to take the next step. Establishing a sustainable professional rugby (union) league that allows local players and fans alike to enjoy the great game of rugby at a level never before seen at the domestic level in the United States.
The inaugural season will feature seven teams. The Houston SabreCats, the Utah Warriors, the Seattle Seawolves, the San Diego Legion, the Glendale Raptors, the New Orleans Gold and Austin Elite Rugby.
These form seven of the nine foundation organisations within the league. The other two, the Kansas City Blues and the Chicago Lions, have both opted to enter in its second season in 2019.
So what’s the overall difference? Well, the first is money. In order to compete each team is required to be able to provide a $2m bond for the first season. Alongside that, they need to able to demonstrate the ability to meet these obligations for at least three seasons to come.
Finally, they all need to be able to build their own stadium facilities. The minimum first season capacity being 4-5k but with Houston, Austin, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and all with plans to develop 10k seater stadiums. The Warriors have secured primary tenancy at a brand new stadium being built for Real Salt Lake Academy (Major League Soccer) in Salt Lake.
Planning is so advanced that most of the clubs are well into their preseasons preparations and have scheduled games starting in January with the inaugural 13 week season kicking off in April of next year.
But there’s more. Both Kansas City and Chicago won’t be the only teams entering in 2019. In all likelihood there will be another three to join them. At the very least. Rugby Club New York, the Ontario Arrows and potentially a Boston group are all on the books.
With Boston Rugby Club recently announcing the development of their purpose built $25m facility with a 5k seater stadium and with access to another new 15k stadium being built just down the road.
But there’s more. There’s serious talk about a Vancouver group looking at bringing a MLR team to the city in 2019 and there exists a group keen to bring professional Rugby back to the city.
It’s all quite exciting.
However, the most interesting tidbit is this last one. They have a TV deal. A real one. Earlier this week the League signed a two year multi-platform broadcast deal with CBS Sports.
As part of this deal the league will have 13 games broadcast in the first season including ten ‘game of the round’, two semi-finals and the Championship game. These games will feature on CBS Sports TV channel, via their channels on several major streaming services including Hulu, and on the CBS Sports app.
As the league grows. So will the number of games. With a reach of 57m homes (in terms of TV) it provides a solid launching pad for the league.
Additionally, the league will also be developing its own streaming platform for all the other games as well as regional TV deals similar to of Austins deal with Spectrum Sports.
It really is interesting times in the US. With the collapse of Pro Rugby many would have been justified in thinking that was the end, but instead all it did was spark those with the means and ambition to get on board and make things happen.