Thursday, December 15, 2016

More Info On The Demise Of The San Francisco Rush

The San Francisco Rush are no more. In an e-mail sent out by PRO Rugby CEO Doug Schoninger to to the team he expressed that a lack of suitable venue, fan support, and local coverage wasn't something the team was going to overcome before next season. It's long been known that PRO Rugby was extremely unhappy with Boxer Stadium. Before the season the San Francisco Parks Department had pledged to help promote the team but they did little. The stadium, while offering a great view, is extremely old and has a lot of flaws.

Arguably the biggest flaw with Boxer Stadium and the overall approach to the situation in terms of fans was the price of a ticket. $30 was quite steep, especially for certain members of the rugby community on fixed incomes. Some fans found a way around that by sitting just outside the fence in the public park and watching the action. Ultimately fans chose to watch from the park rather than pay the high ticket price.

Schoninger was more than accurate in also stating that the team didn't get much support from the local media. San Francisco was by far the league's biggest media market and as a minor league sport it wasn't going to get much attention competing with two Major League Baseball teams, two NFL teams, and an NBA team that has been in the finals the last two years. The local media simply didn't cover the team. That said, outsourcing a lot of the league's media relations rather than relying on more staff didn't help the outreach in the community.

Take the jump to read more.

Outside of the stadium one of the biggest obstacles to the team in San Francisco was the fact that venues for the team were spread out over in the Bay Area. The stadium was in the city, the team trained at Life West in Hayward, and the medical staff was based even in another city. It was a lot of travel for a team that was mostly part-time players. Like Denver, San Francisco had a high number of players on Tier III contracts. PRO Rugby was simply unable to find a convenient and affordable location in the area. There were offers made on places but none were affordable for a league on a budget. Kezar Stadium was preferable for the team but it is reserved for a new professional soccer team.

Even further the league had strained relations with local clubs. SFGG was one of the most reluctant clubs to get into PRO Rugby but they eventually did in a big way and provided a lot of players to the Rush. Still, many of the members of SFGG who played for the Rush were loyal to the club that brought them to that point. After all, SFGG is one of the most well-run teams in the country.

Life West also had issues. The team supplied a lot of players to the Rush and assistant coach Adriaan Ferris. But the relationship eventually turned rocky to the point where Life West were not given the release of their PRO Rugby players for the Cal Cup.  With Life West's infrastructure now gone that provided one more obstacle for the team to overcome.

On the pitch the Rush struggled at first despite being tabbed as one of the expected better teams. That changed after the international break as the team put together a series of good results. Those results probably would have been even better this year had all the players returned, which wasn't always guaranteed.

One of the biggest takeaway for fans is that many of the problems that led to the Rush's demise are also present in the four other teams. It's true that all four teams have more support from their local venues than the Rush had but they also rely on a barebones staff on the ground. PRO Rugby has yet to fill Steve Lewis's old job meaning that there is just one less person to make things come together. Running a league is hard and while there won't be as much set-up as last season there is a still a lot of work to do to get ready for the start of the season in just a few months and it doesn't seem like PRO Rugby is ready.

There are consistent rumors that relations between PRO Rugby and other entities has deteriorated over the last few months. U.S.A. Rugby CEO Dan Payne met with Schoninger today but the results of that meeting aren't known. However, the timing of the announcement could be seen as ominous.

Fans out there are still cheering for PRO Rugby and professional rugby in general. It wasn't perfect but the league did have a good first season. It was always supposed to be a beta year for the league but the lack of big sponsors and broadcasting after the year is concerning. Here's hoping that the league can pull it through for the fans that cheered them on last year.


  1. I respect Schoninger. I hope he wins in the end because if he wins USA rugby wins.

  2. Well I just lost a job. Glad to hear it first from a blog.

  3. This reinforces the issue that the support for PRORugby will come from the smaller locations that don't have other distractions.
    Look at the Ohio Aviators - the city of Obetz is building them (and a pro lacrosse team) a new stadium. Rugby is a big deal in this context.
    Rugby was nothing more than a sideshow in San Francisco.
    Can it succeed in other major metro areas? Seattle perhaps?

  4. We need Doug to keep on trying. He will be challenged by competition from the Huns etc. but if he just goes away, this upper level of competition collapses, leaving just the long-shot hopes of making the Eagles the incentive for the young rugby players.
    A pro league is necessary to give young players a reason to work.
    Rugby wasn't getting anywhere when it was just a gentlemen's game played at private high schools and as non-varsity sport at university.
    We need the pro game to validate rugby in the US.
    Keep on trying, Doug!