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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

PRO Rugby Could Strengthen, Hurt PRP & ARP

Simply by existing PRO Rugby is going to change things in the United States. Rugby players are now going to have jobs, some overseas players could become U.S.-eligible simply by playing in PRO Rugby, the Eagles will get better, men's clubs will be impacted, and college players will have another option after graduating. Some of those changes will be gradual, some will be right away. The American Rugby Premiership and the Pacific Rugby Premiership fall into that latter category.

For the last couple of years the PRP and the ARP have been exactly what elite rugby in this country has needed. Players that wanted to make it on to the Eagles needed better competition and more games. Both competitions delivered that. Each season saw the quality of competition in both the ARP and PRP improve as players were drawn to the competitions. There is no question that the Eagles domestic playing pool has increased because of the ARP and PRP.*

*It won't come as much of a shock to anyone that has followed closely but we have written articles for both the ARP and PRP websites, just to add that for full disclosure. 

Take the jump to read more.
That said, the PRP and ARP haven't always been perfect. The top teams in each competition are very good but some of the teams toward the bottom could use some strengthening. Additionally, Seattle, arguably the best team in the country, isn't in either competition and Austin, Metropolis, Kansas City, and a few other clubs in the middle of the country are left out. Further, some teams have done really well to run out U.S.-qualified players but others have relied more on imports for success.

Now with PRO Rugby coming in and cutting into both the ARP and PRP seasons (more so for the PRP) there is a risk that both of these competitions will be hollowed out. To some degree that is going to happen as the top players are taken. It's hard to see Zach Fenoglio for example turning out for Glendale in April when he's playing with the Denver PRO Rugby team. However, it would be foolish to think that the PRP and ARP still don't have a role.

PRO Rugby CEO Doug Schoninger and anyone at the organization that you talk to has repeatedly stressed that they want to work with clubs. They are planning on scheduling matches on Friday evenings and on Sundays just to clear the way for club matches on Saturdays. It also makes sense from their perspective. As we've noted in other articles the competition has to fill 180 roster spots and even considering capped U.S. and Canadian players and foreign players that is still a lot of spots to fill. A large portion of those players will come from the ARP and PRP.

To get those players PRO Rugby is going to have to give something up in return. One of the ideas that has been put forward and makes a lot of sense is "seconding" players to clubs. That means that if a player further down the bench and not on the game day roster for the San Francisco team they could play for either SFGG or Olympic Club in the PRP during the week. That way the ARP and PRP teams aren't completely decimated.

Still, just giving them players that don't make the roster might not be enough. If we're being honest, some of the ARP and PRP teams toward the bottom (and at the top for some) don't have a lot of depth and some haven't put out full 23 man rosters for their regular matches. They are going to need something else. Maybe that means taking players from the PRO Rugby combines and funneling them to ARP and PRP teams. Maybe that also means providing them with some financial incentive. Other options could include help with facilities (PRO Rugby teams will need them to train) and media coverage.

No matter what happens both the ARP and PRP are going to have to undergo changes. For the PRP that may mean starting early, potentially in November with a break for Christmas, while the ARP that could mean condensing everything into the fall. Still, both competitions have a lot of importance and as PRO Rugby grows the PRP and ARP should grow alongside with it.


  1. USA Rugby needs to start providing land grants and grants for equipment for the men's clubs. Especially as revenue increases via more test matches, increased cipp numbers, sponsorship, etc., etc. If they handed out $200K each to 2 clubs annually for land, think of the changes over the next decade. That would be 20 additional clubs with their own land. While it likely won't pay for everything, it would be a fantastic start. They should set aside $100k per year for equipment grants: scrum machines, gym equipment, tackle bags, etc. We need to build a Rugby culture, which means clubs need a place to gather instead of the local park.

  2. I like the idea of the elite clubs and colleges competing in the Fall. Pro Rugby could play April to August and the PRP, ARP, Red River Premiership, Midwest Premiership, etc. could play August to November. Also, PRO Rugby and USA Rugby could provide some money to make this happen.

  3. I think you're gonna see the PRP, ARP, etc slowly ease into becoming developmental leagues for PRO Rugby.

  4. Still haven't seen a viable business model. Until then, it's still a huge load of doo-doo, baby.

  5. Good problem to have. Never let a crisis go to waste

  6. One thing that would assist the PRP Clubs, as long as PRO Rugby will be taking players from their roster, because what PRO rugger, having played on Friday night, is going to be at his best on Saturday to play for his PRP side [or vice versa on a Sunday if the PRO side would even allow it], is money to conduct operations. Here specifically i am talking travel expenses. If the PRO team wants to "take" players from a PRP roster, sponsor a substitute's travel expenses. Then if someone low on the roster is getting the last minute [or any] call up because of the PRP player now missing, the Club has a way to fund that replacement's travel, ideally lightening the load for all that are traveling.

  7. While I believe there should be a solid relationship between PRO Rugby and the PRP / ARP teams I think that at least in the short term the PRP / ARP are going to have to be flexible and allow PRO rugby to develop. Are players going to be lost to PRO rugby? Yes. Isn't that sort of the point - to concentrate the best possible players at the top of the heap? I do think it makes some sense to allow players that are not selected (and there looks to be 7 every week) to get game time with the local club; preferably a PRP / ARP club (given that we do not know all the cities involved we don't know for certain that there is a corresponding PRP / ARP club to which players can be loaned out. In the short term, though, I do believe that there needs to be more giving towards the PRO league than what they can give back in return. Over time relationships and processes can evolve but PRO rugby is going to need a little space to work out the kinks. The pay back may be a year or two down the road.

  8. ...not sure that the Clubs will perish....