Updates on Pro Rugby - December 2016

December 16 2016

The Major Rugby Championship (MRC): Another Step in the Evolution of Pro Rugby in North America?

posted Dec 16 2016
[ed. comments below

Things are evolving in the US in terms of pro rugby. Most readers will know about the PRO Rugby North America league which was sanctioned by USA Rugby but not Rugby Canada. They have one season under their belt and are planning for season two but not much has been released to date. They plan to have 8 teams with the Northeast being one of the focus areas for expansion. Currently they have 3 California teams, a Denver and an Ohio team.

There has also been news of 5 clubs in the US southwest forming a competition, not necessarily a league, called the MRC, Major Rugby Championship. Three of the clubs have stated their intention to become professional by offering player contracts. Those three clubs would be Austin Huns, Texas Griffins and Glendale Raptors.

It seems the introduction of PRO Rugby last year had some ripple effects. The PRP, Pacific Rugby Premiership, has switched its season to the fall for 2017 to avoid conflict with PRO Rugby which operates in the spring/summer season. However it's also created some competition with other clubs who are on a professional path and want to keep their spring season such as Austin Huns, Texas Griffins and Glendale Raptors. Glendale and PRO Rugby had a bit of niggle last season when the Denver Stampede moved venues mid season. The American rugby landscape is changing season by season with PRO Rugby being the big stone thrown in the pond and creating ripples. It's certainly raised the competition among clubs as some look at a professional model to compete with PRO Rugby. That model includes a stadium to generate ticket revenue, an owner based management group, online ticket sales, and TV broadcast deals.

Further Reading

Tentative Major Rugby Championship Schedule

Formation of new domestic championship in US highlights conflicts between PRO and Club Rugby

6 ways the Major Rugby Championship is unlike any other regional competition in America

Teams with professional aspirations

Austin Huns

- have capability to sell tickets online
- announce player contracts
- own land with rugby fields, building plans for stadium
- have owner management model
- announce TV distribution deal

Glendale Raptors

- have stadium and broadcast facilities
- announce intentions of providing player contracts
- have capability to sell tickets online

Texas Griffins

- have owner management model
- offer player contracts
- working on stadium deal with municipality

Implications for Canada

Even though Rugby Canada has refused PRO Rugby there's nothing stopping the creation of professional rugby teams in Canada. If you look at the USA model, you put some investors together and create an owner management group. You look for a contract with an existing stadium or pitch a deal with a municipality for a new facility. You find other North American clubs on the same path and form a schedule. You contract players, find sponsorship, negotiate broadcast opportunities, then sell the hell out of it.

It will be interesting to see how this new competition progresses as well as the unfolding of PRO Rugby year two. At least things are being tried south of the border, it may look like chaos at the beginning but as they say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Pemberton Holmes
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