Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy with quotes courtesy of Rugby N’ Bits
Rumors 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.