PRO Rugby North America - December Update

December 20 2016

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Is PRO Rugby Dead in North America?

posted Dec 20 2016
[ed. comments below]

Social media was alight with the release of a PRO Rugby letter to players putting them on notice of contract terminations.

The letter was released by Rugby Today.

PRO Rugby Players,

As some of you may or may not know, we have been having serious issues with the cooperation and the enforcement of our agreement with USA Rugby. We have been actively trying to resolve our issues with USA Rugby for over four months and, unfortunately, it appears that USA Rugby will not honor the commitments they made to us.

Because of this, we are notifying all presently agreed players of PRO Rugby that we are exercising the Voluntary Termination clause in your contract (section 5(b)). We are hopeful, but with no assurances, that we will be able to resolve all issues with USA Rugby prior to end of the termination clause period. We will keep you up to date with any progress or news as it becomes available.

Please remember, until the end of the termination clause you are still an employee of PRO Rugby and all duties and obligations should be adhered to.

Because of the above, payment for the period ending on December 15th was delayed. These payments will be issued tomorrow, December 21st for receipt no later than December 22, 2016.

I am very sorry that we were forced to take this action and we are trying to do everything we can to ensure that PRO Rugby, its players, coaches, and employees are all treated fairly.

Doug Schoninger

We asked Doug for clarification on this and he's been open with the media on his thoughts:

Mark, we have not ceased operations, quite the contrary... we are more excited than ever about the growth of rugby in the USA/NA... Though, with USA Rugby being unsupported of our agreement we feel we need to step back and evaluate our options, which are many. It seems the more success we get the more we are seen as a threat to the establishment.

I do not think RC's lack of cooperation affected this outcome other than I believe that both unions see us as a threat and not a solution to growing rugby. I believe our shared mandate should be to grow the game, give more opportunity to NA players and coaches and to expose more Americans to rugby.

It was always going to be tough starting PRO Rugby in North America, especially a home grown solution, when the national unions have so much invested in exclusive ownership of the sport along with millions of dollars in payments from World Rugby.

The future path of PRO Rugby and professional rugby in North America in general remains shrouded in mystery right now. Rugby League has taken a step forward with the Toronto Wolfpack and we'll see how their enterprise works out in the coming years.

Reaction from various performers in this drama was telling. Rugby Canada's Gareth Rees made apparent his feelings about "this entity".

USA Rugby hit back at PRO Rugby with their statement:

PRO Rugby responded to USA Rugby:

PRO Rugby remains defiant during the battle for public opinion.

The best guess right now is that PRO 12 or Super Rugby are making overtures to USA and Canada and PRO Rugby North America is getting ditched in the process.

Stay tuned for updates.

Pemberton Holmes
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