Friday, May 27, 2016

The Rise Of Rugby

By Brendan Triplett

If there is anything that we can take away from this past year in rugby it is that the sport is growing. From the smallest grade school to the advent of Pro Rugby we are in the midst of history being made. Not too long ago we were sitting back as a small, but stout, group of niche sport enthusiasts, paying big money to stream games and finding satellite packages and euro-sport programs to just catch a glimpse of the world of rugby that has, until recently, been unable to gather enough momentum to sustain the sport as a national pastime. Rugby World Cup (RWC) changed that and coupled with the sport being added to the Rio venue for the Olympics it was time for the sport to expand its borders and go from the third fastest growing global sport to cracking the top ten of most popular sports in the U.S.

What did we learn from RWC? A 54 page report was just released by Ernst and Young LLP, a UK based assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory service, that reviewed the economy of the RWC and just how much of an impact that it has made globally (See the full report here). So let’s review just a few of the major points from the Tournament.

Take the jump to read more.

It was the most successful RWC ever with over 2.47 million tickets being sold.
This success in ticket sales has ranked it as the fifth largest single sporting event in the world, behind four other FIFA events. 
  • RWC was broadcast to over 4 billion viewers, reaching 780 million homes. 
  • International visitors spent over $1.4 billion during the tournament. 
  • Over 1 million visitors attended various fan zones for the tournament. 
  • The overall output, or expenditure for the economy over the course of the tournament, was over $3.3 billion. 
In every aspect, the event toppled records set by previous rugby tournaments and set the stage for the success of any other country that might host the event in the future. It has increased the GDP by over one billion dollars for the host nation and has pulled over $1.5 million dollars in Gross Value Added (GVA).

We see these gains worldwide with the sport, regardless of whether it is sevens or 15s. HSBC Sevens are seeing increased attendance, we reviewed a short time ago that even the collegiate level CRC is seeing a dramatic increase in the attendance of the event as well, and just drive down a street in your hometown and you are likely to see the impact of hundreds of local clubs springing up nationally.

Can’t seem to be able to make it to a game? Not to worry, the growth of the sport has garnered the interest of better viewing slots on television, streaming sites for international games, and a growing fan base that is propelling the technology to catch up with what we all already know… the sport needs more face time. Not to worry though, The Rugby Channel, Bein Sports, World Sport, NBC Sports, and ESPN3 are expanding programming in the United States for those that are hungry and can watch the games live, stream them on your mobile devices, or search through hundreds of archived games for your favorite tourney.

Whether you are new to the game or a long-time fan the time is ripe for you to jump into the sport feet first. The Olympics will prove to be incredible and after 92 years there is no better time for the sport to come back to become the spectacle that it was for so long. The U.S. has been getting a stronger team and what could have only been whispered before has become a rallying cry for our sevens to topple every country that they face to take another gold and reprise their role as world champions. Realistically, our dark horse team, under the guidance of Mike Friday, has gone from minnow to whale in the tournament and looks to medal, at the very least, when the Olympics get underway.

The bottom line is that this is a banner year for the sport and the best way to for it to grow is involvement. Watch it, read it, live it, and love it. Rugby is breaking out in a big way and for those of us that have patiently been waiting for this moment it is nice to enjoy the ride. Ruck on.


  1. Everything but eagles games been behind a ppv wall, essentially ensuring a third rate super rugby game will have a better viewership.

  2. I agree and from a UK perspective, more US players are popping up with real class (eg MacGinty for Connacht, Durutalo for Sunwolves) all the world over. All I hope is that the US follow the path of Argentina. From being totally under-rated even in the early 2000s, Argentina grew in strength very quickly are now a team to be feared by all countries. But they did it without the Northern Hemisphere even really noticing and having a strong domestic competition as well as decent overseas players. I just hope Pro Rugby sticks and can grow - a few more big signings like Miliaina could help to grow international interest in the competition.