Rugby America

Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective

North American Pro 15’s Competition Gunning For 2015 Launch

by Ted Hardy with quotes courtesy of Rugby N’ Bits

APRC smallRumors of professional rugby in American have never been in short supply. Certainly in recent years as the rugby community has been continually tantalized by various proposals and nuggets of “inside” information. The desire, within the rugby community, to have a professional competition to call our own grows greater as every year passes. Developments in recent years have begun to turn the tide. The consensus opinion is that professional rugby in American has turned into a “not if but when” scenario.

American rugby fans know that there is nothing like some good old-fashioned professional rugby talk to get everyone stirred up.

Well, I’m about to make it worse.

New information has arisen regarding one of the rumored upstart pro rugby competitions. Last month Jason Moore, from Moore Sports Enterprises, sat down with Peter Fagan for an interview for Fagan’s Rugby N’ Bits radio show which is based in Sydney, Australia. The subject of conversation was the American Professional Rugby Competition. The APRC is the professional rugby project that Moore has been working on for the past 5-6 years.

With sanctioning from USA Rugby and millions of dollars invested in the startup, Moore and the APRC have reached the point where they are facing “make it or break it time”. Moore has set October of 2013 as the franchise deadline if the competition is going to reach their goal of launching in 2015.

Moore estimates that the APRC is roughly a $120-130 million project, so this is not a shoe-string effort.

The main catalyst for the APRC stemmed from the failed attempt to bring a Bledisloe Cup match to Denver. While 2010 was the target for the game to be played at Mile High Stadium in Denver, work on the project began years prior. The Bledisloe match in Denver was to serve as phase one of the project and meant to showcase elite level rugby to American fans. Phase two was launching a professional competition.

“We decided to push forward with the competition anyways,” added Moore in regards to pushing on with their professional rugby goal despite not being able to bring the All Blacks and Wallabies to America as a primer.

The APRC is planned to be a cross-border competition with teams from the United States and Canada. The target is to have ten teams upon launch in March of 2015. Of those ten teams, two are expected to be from Canada. The current plan is to split the ten teams into two conferences, the East and Central-West. Each team is expected to play a home/away series within their conference and play one game against each team in the other conference. This gives each team 13 regular season games followed by a presumed postseason for the top teams. The season is set to play from the beginning of March-August. That time frame fits perfectly with the proposed season plan with some wiggle room for national team call-ups.

“It avoids the NFL season,” stated Moore citing the American fall sporting juggernaut. “It also gives NFL fans an off-season alternative.”

Moore’s team has been researching various areas and have come up with approximately 15-20 communities in the USA and Canada that could comfortably host a franchise in the APRC. Factors that were taken into account included existing professional playing facilities, size of the market, rugby culture, and the size of the rugby population among other factors.

As with every professional rugby venture, generating funding and finding suitable owners is the crux of the project. With a $2.5 million up front franchise license fee and an expected $7.5 million cash flow requirement (per franchise) over the first few years, the APRC is not going to be cheap and it will take time to see the fruits of any investment.

“We need ten qualified franchise owners that are financially capable,” says Moore. Without ten franchises in place by October 2013, the competition will not reach the goal of launching in 2015. “There is quite clearly a requirement to get those negotiations done reasonably quickly to give franchises time to recruit players, coaches, staff, etc.,” added Moore.

To that end, Moore and his group have been in ongoing discussions with a variety of ownership groups. Some of which are very serious. Moore has met with various NFL, NHL, and MLS ownership groups regarding the APRC. They have also been in discussion with some overseas owners. Of the interested overseas parties, the APRC has been in negotiations with a group that owns a French team, a group that is heavily invested in Currie Cup and Super Rugby in South Africa, as well as a group that is heavily invested in the English Premiership.

“We have a lot of interested parties, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Moore finished.

As with every single professional competition in the works, only time will tell. The APRC sounds very promising and their inclusion of Canadian franchises is a wise move. There are still many logistical and financial obstacles for Moore and the APRC to navigate.

With almost six years of planning in the books, October and the deadline will come up real fast.

Keep your fingers crossed.

A major thank you goes to Peter Fagan for sharing quotes from his interview with Jason Moore. To hear the Rugby N’ Bits interview with Jason Moore, please follow the link.

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21 comments on “North American Pro 15’s Competition Gunning For 2015 Launch

  1. Robert
    December 20, 2012

    Oh wow! Lets hope this comes to fruition. I would love to see a pro rugby competition in the US with a structure similar to the MLS.

    Ted could you get an interview with Moore? I wonder how close he is to getting the private owners in place. Also, there is still time to have a Bledisloe Cup match in the US before 2015. Why not look at Houston?

  2. Grant
    December 20, 2012

    Really. Sweet. Scoop. Ted! FFS that was brilliant.

  3. RugbyBuzz
    December 20, 2012

    Do they need a Commissioner of Officials? Just asking . . .

  4. Tony
    December 20, 2012

    This sounds good, I just hope they choose a catchier name. They are obviously avoiding the term “league” for good reasons, why not the American Rugby Premiership?

  5. Mike Holzman
    December 20, 2012

    “Competition” is a very Commonwealth term so I hope they use something else too. Why not take a page from the NBA and replace it with “Association”?

  6. MattD
    December 20, 2012

    awesome news to hear, and just before the world ends tomorrow… go figure. Like all the other professional rugby endeavors we’ve heard lately I hope this one works out as well.

    Any idea on the 20 markets that they deemed viable to host a franchise?

  7. Tony
    December 20, 2012

    In the interview he mentioned New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Denver, Vancouver, San Diego, and Houston (from what I remember). If I had to guess on the others based on metro size and current support for rugby I’d say San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Utah, Dallas, Kansas City, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia are all definitely worth considering. Other cities that come to mind are Portland, Victoria, and Columbus and then after that the other pro sports markets.

  8. RugbyAmerica
    December 20, 2012

    Everyone, thanks for the feedback! To answer some of the questions & statements…

    1. I have contacted them and I am working on getting an interview with Mr. Moore. I think the Bledisloe Cup match ship has sailed so to speak. That’s not to say it won’t come back around. When it first came about, I was very worried about them biting off more than they could chew. However, recent event attendance leads me to believe that a game like that could be a success here in the USA. I think planners are starting to find some real good “go to” sites in America.

    2. Grant, I was pretty surprised when I came across the interview. It was surprisingly in deapth. I expected it to be really vague. We heard some noise about them around this time last year and then that was it. I was interested to find out more, so I started digging away and struck oil.

    3. Buzz… only if you wear a really cool commissioner hat.

    4. Agreed on the name, hopefully it is just a work in progress. I did some trademark searches and didn’t find anything, so that leads me to believe this is just a working name and not the final product. I do like the logo though. It is very reminiscent of the logos used by our other big sports. There was a time that I thought the National Rugby Association would be a good name for a pro league. Given the similar acronym to the National Rifle Association it might not be a good time to use that name though.

    5. Matt, in the full interview there was mention of a handful of locations. I believe Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, and San Diego were a few of the locations that were thrown out in the context of other discussions. I think we could take a pretty good stab at good potential markets by starting with MLS cities that also have strong rugby communities. I believe I did an article with a similar subject matter a ways back. Maybe I’ll dig it up, update it, and repost it.

  9. Daryl Capen
    December 20, 2012

    Since Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had a rugby backround in college, I had thought he would be a good supporter of pro rugby in the U.S. I wonder if AIG has ever been approached? MLS stadiums would be a perfect venue for rugby, just like the Houstan Dynamo facilities for this past summer’s Italy-Eagles match.

    Yeah, hopefully they don’t use ‘competition’. Don’t use ‘league’ either for obvious reasons. Rugby Union of America?

  10. RugbyAmerica
    December 20, 2012

    I heard someone on another message board mention North American Rugby Association. I kind of like that one.

  11. Grant
    December 20, 2012

    According to a very rich rugger friend of mine (who has likely been approached already), Moore’s asking price is $15M per franchise. That is steep.

  12. RugbyGlobal
    December 20, 2012

    I really hope NARA must be used. I thought the fee was $2,5M

  13. Severo
    December 20, 2012

    This is really wonderful news. Albeit, the timing isn’t great…with the world coming to an end in a few hours. However, as a former Commissioner in Korea with the Rugby Scene there (US Military, Koreans, Expatriots)…I’d motion to get the Koreans Involved in this as well. They are an excellent gateway into the Asian Markets…RICH….Asian markets. My concern is that the 10 franchises are a bit skewed by location. I’d raise the notion to allow 3 West Coast, 3 East Coast, 2 Midwest and 2 Canadian teams in the Series…The name has to speak volumes…since you want to include internationals…I’ve been kicking around the term “Rugby Federation of the Americas”…not sure if that would spark any interest…but it certainly opens the idea to other foreign markets…heck…include Mexico and the Carribean folks. I think…in my opinion…it is convincing the US TV networks to buy off on giving up prime time to it instead of reality shows…If that can’t be arranged to have a Rugby venue taken up on prime time we stand to lose 23 million viewers during a 2 hour time block…with pre game, half time, post game and commercials.

    Just my food for thought to the masses. It was a headache that I truly enjoyed doing out there…and maybe…if I can…get a shot to help out with this…I’m all in!

  14. RugbyRedefined.com
    December 20, 2012

    @RedefinedRugby congratulate this move … Well Done

  15. Pingback: North American Pro 15′s Competition Gunning For 2015 Launch « RugbyRedefined

  16. Tony
    December 21, 2012

    @ Grant: I’ve given this a bit of thought, and I don’t think that $15M is all that steep. Here are a few comparisons:
    * Minor league baseball teams are valued at anywhere between $3-25M, the average of a AAA team being around the $20M mark.
    * The Montreal Impact, the latest MLS expansion team, paid $40M for their franchise. The MLS is looking at $100M for their next franchise in New York, but that is probably a bit of an exception given the interest in the market. I believe their most recent sale involved D.C. United and valued the relatively middle-of-the-road franchise at $50M.
    * The first franchise sale for Grand Prix’s 7s competition was $10M, and it seems right to me that a traditional rugby franchise should be at a higher value than a sevens franchise.

    It’s fair to add that the MLS had franchises start out at $5M in 1996, which is $7M nowadays once you adjust for inflation. Why should the start-up rugby franchises be worth twice as much? Because the MLS is essentially a minor league, it doesn’t really have a shot at challenging the top European leagues any time soon. Meanwhile, rugby is still fairly young as a professional sport and while four major leagues have emerged, none of them have the same stature as the English Premiership, Serie A, or La Liga. An American rugby competition has a much greater chance of becoming a top level league than an American soccer competition does.

  17. RugbyAmerica
    December 21, 2012

    The $15 million is steep, but I have to agree with Tony. This is a fairly low entry fee for someone that wants to own a professional sports team, but doesn’t have the billions of $$$ to get into the NFL,MLB, or NBA.

    There are plenty of other low cost options for sports franchises. Lower end “Pro” arena football teams sell for $150K+. However, no matter how great a arena football league becomes, it will never be the NFL. Same goes for the multitude of minor league baseball and basketball leagues. There is only one MLB, NBA, and NFL. Those leagues have maxed out their membership and the price tag just keeps getting higher.

    This is a chance to get in on the ground level in a professional rugby league that will be the top pro competition in North America. Of course the risk is… it will be the first pro rugby competition.

    Going by the interview, the franchise fee is $2.5 million and then they’re asking that the owners have the cash flow in place to get them through the first few years. In the interview he mentioned another $7.5 million (bringing the total to $10 million), but as Grant mentioned it could be likely that they are suggesting that owners put up closer to $15 million to provide that extra buffer.

    That means they are giving themselves (and us fans) a cushion of at least three years to give franchises time to build their teams and fanbase. It is going to take some time. These teams aren’t going to draw 10,000 fans for every game right out of the gate or 5000 for that matter. The expansion Charlotte Major League Lacrosse team drew just over 5700 fans per game last season and were considered a big success (4th in the league in attendance). The average attendance per MLL game in 2012 was 5600 and the league has been in operation since 2001. They averaged just under 4000 per game in 2001, so there has been improvement.

    If (and that is a big IF) this is going to happen, it cannot be done on a thin budget. They could probably get by with a total entry fee of $5 million per franchise (or less), but then there would be a higher likelihood that teams would come and go on a yearly basis. If the competition folded in a few years, it would set pro rugby back at least another 10 years in North America. We can’t afford that to happen.

  18. Shaun Shepard
    December 21, 2012

    Someone mentioned Rugby competing with Reality TV for network time. A very valid concern especially with today’s America TV watching trends. There is a very simple solution to this however. GrandPrix has already mentioned their approach to this problem. Which is to sell Rugby as Reality TV.

    Soccer is already doing this as well, think “Being Liverpool”.

    I hate soccer… seriously… I’ve given it several chances and it keeps putting me to sleep. I just can’t watch it. However, after watching Being Liverpool I found my self watching a liverpool match with interest… Strange indeed but I knew instantly this is what Rugby needs in America.

    A reality show based on a Rugby team in America would do AMAZING things for awareness, education and most importantly interest for rugby in America. Imagine also… they syndicate that show to broadcast on MTV. Also imagine the growth in youth rugby as a result of a show like that. This would also put people in seats. Imagine the turnout for a team people have on some level developed an emotional bonded with due to the show.

    One more thing… a show like this could also be doable with or without a pro competition. I would even argue that perhaps a show like this is critical to the success of ANY of these initiatives that are in progress.

  19. RugbyGlobal
    December 21, 2012
  20. gmerali
    April 7, 2013

    maybe we can get the mfl network to post the games. i think they would be eager to host it.

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