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Monday, November 9, 2015

More Details On Pro Rugby

Bonny Field will be seeing more matches next year.
Now that it's officially been announced we have some more details on PRO Rugby. As this morning's press release announced, the competition is set to begin in April with six teams. The press release listed that teams will be in the Northeast, Rocky Mountains, and California. We can confirm the identities of four of those teams as Sacramento, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia. Those teams have been confirmed because their venues have been solidified. Sacramento will be playing out of Bonny Field, San Francisco will be out of Kezar Stadium Boxer Stadium, Denver is still to be determined out of two possible locations, and Philadelphia will play in PPL Park. More teams will be announced when venues are finalized. Expansion to Canada is likely in 2017. One of the difficulties in selecting venues is that they are ideally medium sized and adhere to the new World Rugby turf regulations going into effect next April.

When asked about the identifies of the teams, rugby director Steve Lewis said that fans will be involved with branding/names determined by fans for the 2nd season. The first season is seen as a test drive but there is a firm commitment to see this competition through for several years. Even if, and it's likely, that the league doesn't make money in the first year, there is a commitment to continue. CEO Dough Schoniger has been working on this full time for awhile now and there is a long-term plan in place.

Again as mentioned in the press release, the season will be 10 games long followed by playoffs. The playoff format is still to be determined. The plan is to play matches on Sunday or Friday in order to leave the window open for club play on Saturday. It should be noted that things are still in flux with the league and some of these details are subject to change over the next few months. The league will be taking a break for the June international window.

Take the jump to read more.

In terms of players, the intent is to have teams of 30 players a piece. Teams will be predominately American and Canada (both will be treated as domestic players) with 3-5 international players on each team. When asked about the type of international players Lewis explained that players will come from "Either end of the spectrum. Younger Academy-type players, or end of career, final challenge types. OR PERHAPS project type players, i.e. 3 year contracts for residency like every other country does."

National team players from the U.S. and Canada will be included in the league if they choose (almost all certainly will). As expected they will be some of the higher earners in the league at around $40k, which for four months is fairly good. Other players will make an average of around $25k. Because the league is a single-entity structure they will decide where players play. Preference for a certain location, for example if it's their home, will be taken into considering. That means that a player like Ben Pinkelman probably won't end up in San Francisco but would play for Denver.

Before players are announced the plans are to 1) secure the final venues, 2) secure the coaching and back-room staffs, and then 3) secure the players and divvy them up among the teams.

PRO Rugby is obviously going to take players from clubs around the country (what player wouldn't want to get paid) but Lewis stressed that the league is working very closely with local clubs to make sure that they are included in the process and have buy in. "This will be the toughest part of my remit as clubs will initially feel threatened. I have ideas as to how to remedy this, I don’t see it as a zero sum game." That may mean and arrangement where players are dual registered so that if they aren't playing for the pro team on the weekend they could play in the ARP, PRP, or for their college or DI club.

Stay tuned later when we'll have more details on the single-entity structure and the business side of things. 

16 comments:

  1. You can't really have "test runs" in American pro sports (see the FXFL, for example). The time to have fans involved in the names of the teams would be prior to the season, not afterwards. Will the teams just wear blank shirts with numbers? Hard to get excited about "Sacramento team" vs. "Denver team" for example. The rest sounds good but that part sounds like a real misstep.

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  2. Sounds Excellent. As an avid rugby fan wishing it all well.

    One little thing. I was never ever a fan of the so called National Rugby Football League (Nerfs) and their idea for a professional team from ex grid iron players. But they did try to make a team. They'd make a nice "Wild Card" if they were invited to play. Just to see if they can play.

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  3. "In terms of players, the intent is to have teams of 30 players a piece. Teams will be predominately American and Canada (both will be treated as domestic players) with 3-5 international players on each team. When asked about the type of international players Lewis explained that players will come from "Either end of the spectrum. Younger Academy-type players, or end of career, final challenge types. OR PERHAPS project type players, i.e. 3 year contracts for residency like every other country does."

    This is little more than word filler, saying nothing other than "we'll consider all types on a case-by-case basis".

    I don't see why clubs would feel threatened. What right do they have to feel slighted that one of their amateurs has a chance to be professional?

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    1. They're not threatened..They're the gene pool for the professional Union.

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    2. MLS has never been able to treat Canadians on American clubs as domestics due to labor laws stimulating all foreigners be treated equally... interesting to see if this changes.

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  4. The clubs in cities with a pro team should see an influx of players who want exposure to the pro teams.

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  5. Make all the games streamed with access to the recorded matches afterwards and sell those ad spots. That's how money will be made. DO NOT sign deals with corporate media. They'll keep you locked out from doing anything that could get to the masses. We need the to be able to watch these teams play without needing to pay out unless we watch in person

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    1. I believe the idea is to start by streaming live over the new web channel RIM is starting. No actual broadcasts on tv yet.

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    2. That's great news for rugby in the USA! As long as it works ...

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  6. Boxer Stadium for the SF team? Really?

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    1. Perhaps turf conditions meet the requirements, and the other stadium is booked?

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    2. What other options are there? Do you really want to drive all the way out to the MLS stadium outside San Jose airport?!

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  7. I'd like to see a piece done about the financing of the league. What sort of capital is available to run this thing. Reports are out there that the salaries will range from 25 - 40 k depending on the experience of the player. Using 32 K as an average that means there is a payroll of 5.76 mil that needs to be met. Just for players. You then need to hire coaches and trainers, rent stadia, pay for travel (cross country), marketing, sales etc etc. Is it unreasonable to say that it will cost in the neighborhood of 20 mill to run this for a season? Does the management group that is putting this together have the capital to float this for what could take several years to build a fan base, establish sponsorship deals, and get adequate broadcasting revenue? I don't think it is over the top to suggest that it will take 75 - 100 mill to get this thing off the ground and running. We all want professional rugby. And this league appears to be taking a reasonably cannon sense approach but it would be good to know what sort of business plan is in place. Obviously not all the proprietary details .. just some assurance that legitimate financial backing is supporting this concept.

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    1. I completely agree, we don't need another under funded and unorganized sports league. It's not just a rugby thing, teams/league finances will have to accept that it could be ten years before even breaking even, if ever.

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  8. This may sound strange, but the live streaming needs to be available across all the platforms, ROKU, FIRESTICK, CHROMECAST, BOXEE, etc. or this will be another venture in obscurity

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    1. Agreed. With ticket sales and media-audience challenges awaiting PRO, management must offer user-friendly streaming options to potential fans and begin blasting the target demographics through social media and other platforms asap. Games must be live, recorded and availible for free (at least for the initial season) in order to maximize viewer analytics. Sponsorship and commercial spots must be filled and this will take persistence and proving content quality off the bat.

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