Monday, April 25, 2016

The CRC: Better Than Ever

By Brendan Triplett

7’s rugby is getting bigger than ever. With the sport coming back to the Olympics from a long hiatus since the Paris games in 1924 we are seeing it once again take the world stage for competitive sports. On a collegiate level the game has been growing even faster and the use of the game in many collegiate spring seasons has been changing the face of XV’s as universities are utilizing the quick ball and aggressive pace of their 7’s teams as building blocks for their XV’s.

Each new season we watch the best and brightest of our national collegiate 7’s come together for the Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC). Since its inception in 2010 the event has not only grown but has also inspired dozens of universities to start their own programs and develop ruggers to tap into the growing niche of hardcore rugby fans. The event is held at the Talen Energy Stadium, formerly the PPL center, and is growing ever-closer to filling to capacity for the tourney.

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We sat down with Jeff Leinen, Manager of Sponsorships at Penn Mutual, and talked over some of the success of the program being held there annually. One of the best improvements for the sport has been the ability to obtain corporate sponsorships. Penn Mutual has taken this by the horns and not only sponsors this event, along with others from United World Sports (UWS), NBC Sports, and many more but they also sponsor the National College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) as well as local college and amateur teams to help grow the sport.

Other than the Olympics why are we seeing this growth? All of the events surrounding rugby are creating a perfect storm. We are coming off of a World Cup year, Pro Rugby is well underway and is winning, the Olympics don’t hurt, and we are actually watching the fastest growing sport in the country finally take a foothold and push on. In fact the results of this are staggering when we compare it to the CRCs. Viewership is up over half a million and attendance to the 2-day rugby fest is up 22 percent from 2014 to 2015, as mentioned by UWS.

Television deals with NBC Sports will ensure that the tournament is able to be televised for the next few years and they are capitalizing on the growth of sport by signing rights to air not only tournaments like this but also professional level English Premiership games such as the London Irish v Saracens match only a short time ago. Expanding the field of teams to 24 not only helps to make the tournament more competitive but also allows other universities to grow their programs and shoot for a goal to play on the big stage. In every way we are seeing the program grow larger while corporate sponsorship looks for new ways to market and develop the program. Jeff Leinen said this, “We are pleased to have such a great partnership with NBC Sports. We rely on our partners to help analyze and determine opportunities to support of the event and the sport, and to grow viewership.”

Penn Mutual couldn’t be happier with the event and the level of competition growing as it has but it making viewers hungry for the sport, “We are pleased to see very competitive fields in the (rugby) tournaments. It’s early in the season to make future predictions… but we are confident that the fans in the tournaments will be treated to some very exciting matches.” We are happy with it as well. Ticket sales are well underway for the CRCs on June 4-5 and it is already shaping up to be a banner year for the sport. Make sure you order your tickets early for better pricing and get down to the Talen Energy Station (formerly PPL) to witness history and to get a sneak peek at future USA rugby, Pro level players, and Olympians. Ruck on.

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