Wednesday, January 3, 2018

5 Questions For MLR: Can They All Get Along?

Today we're continuing a five part series asking some key questions about Major League Rugby. This isn't meant as a criticism or praise but more of a straightforward examination of some of the key things that will be vital to the success of MLR.

Easily the biggest difference between PRO Rugby and Major League Rugby is governance. PRO Rugby was dominated by one owner that ultimately called the shots when they mattered (and sunk the league as a result). Major League Rugby has a governing structure much different in that there is a central league office but it's the clubs that own the league. Each team had to put in money to join the league and that buys them a share in how the league is run. While MLR's structure is going to help avoid what eventually took down PRO it doesn't mean it is going to be easy sailing.

Right now things are working and teams are working together. In fact, you have to give the teams a lot of credit for coordinating well and putting out a product that is pretty attractive so far. It's not easy to do and they have done it up to this point. However, what happens when some teams struggle and others succeed? Will the teams that are struggling try and mitigate their losses (either on the pitch or off the pitch) at the expense of teams that are doing well? If there are lopsided scores will the teams that are beating up on other sides wanted to weaken their own team? We're only going to know these answers after the league gets going.

Take the jump to read more.
The biggest early flashpoint could be over who is considered a foreign player. In an interview with The Rugby Republic league executive Nic Benson (you should check out the whole interview here) said: "We will limit each game day roster to five international players, so to allow for development of domestic players." Well, if you look at rosters as they stand that could cause some problems. Clearly Seattle is bringing in a number of Canadian players. Already they have five Canadians on the roster followed by one a piece from England, South Africa, and Belgium. Others teams also are close to their limit. The Houston SaberCats are going to be up there as well. Of course it is the gameday roster so that leaves some wiggle room and maybe like MLS they don't consider players international if they have a green card.

Still, Seattle is the best example of where there could be very early disagreement. Seattle, with Canadian players, looks to be the early favorite to challenge Glendale for the top spot. However, if you take away their deep Canadian pipeline then things get more iffy. It seems they are banking on the league expanding the definition of international player being not from either the U.S. or Canada. How the league handles problems like this is going to be one of the storylines to watch.

Like we mentioned, the good news is that the league seems to be functioning well at this point. If those involved can temper their enthusiasm for their own team and stay focused on the bigger picture can work out. However, if these wealthy owners begin to field their money start to slip away then it could be trouble. Hopefully they have mechanisms to keep that in check.


  1. The biggest question nobody is asking in my opinion. If each team has an average of over 2,000 fans per game after the first season I think it would be a huge success.

    1. That was actually TIAR's second article in this series:
      The first was about the standard of play. I look forward to seeing their discussions of the fourth and fifth questions -- and what they think those questions are.

    2. Also, that's not a question.