Tuesday, February 14, 2017
What Is Major League Rugby?
What is Major League Rugby? News of the competition has been bubbling around the American rugby community for awhile and then during the Eagles-Brazil match on Saturday commentator Dallen Stanford mentioned the competition. But what is it?
Major League Rugby is an outgrowth of this year's Major Rugby Championship, which is a loose tournament featuring the Austin Huns, Glendale Raptors, Rugby Utah, and New Orleans. Still, one point of confusion for fans is over the name. Last year an organization calling themselves Major League Rugby came out announcing they were going to launch a competition and talked trash about PRO Rugby but then nothing happened. Apparently the teams behind the Major Rugby Championship have acquired the name Major League Rugby and will be using that in the future (it's separate from the MRC from what we can tell).
Take the jump to read more.
The teams in the competition include Glendale, Rugby Utah, New Orleans, and the Huns, all from the MRC, along with the Chicago Lions, Dallas Griffins, the Houston Strikers, and the Seattle Saracens. According to rugby sage Grant Cole all of the clubs have developed commercial entities that will run the respective pro teams. Additionally, according to Cole, "these organizations will actually OWN the competition as an LLC, which means each team’s success is dependent on everyone succeeding."
From what TIAR stands there is still a lot under discussion and nothing is final. We've heard from multiple people that the groups mentioned in the competition above have reached out to teams from California. It's still up in the air what happens or even if the teams mentioned above make it into the final version. For example, the Griffins had to pull back from the MRC this year while the Seattle Saracens have made it very clear that they love playing in the BC Premier League. That doesn't mean they aren't interested in playing in MLR but there are reasons why they may not.
It's hard to say whether the new venture will work or not given the lack of details. On the one hand there is something to be said of clubs growing organically and using their existing structures to pursue professional rugby. On the other hand, travel costs should be pretty heavy for each team. At least in PRO Rugby three of the five teams could bus to over half of their matches. In MLR only a handful of teams could do that and unless each club has deep pockets they could lose a million dollars a year. Unless they can break even quickly those losses could mount up quickly.
Additionally, MLR on the surface seems like a resurrection of the Super League but with professional players. The Super League eventually faded because clubs couldn't keep up with the costs. Unless teams in MLR have the budget to get good facilities (most play in parks at the moment) and advertise the hell out of themselves (it costs a lot) it's hard to see them being more than the old Super League expect with higher player costs. Again, it's all up in the air but these are the first whisperings.