The first official press release from Major League Rugby has arrived a few weeks earlier than expected. In it is confirmation that nine cities will take part in the inaugural season, with one deviation from the original list reported in February. The rumor of a team in Minneapolis has been confirmed though not explicitly connected to Metropolis Rugby Club. Now missing from the group is Chicago, with the proposed association with the Lions now seemingly pushed to 2019, though a ‘final team and venue list’ is due to be released later this year suggesting that more teams may yet be added for 2018.
Also of interest is that the release was delivered from Salt Lake City, where new league commissioner Dean Howes is based. Howes is a former partner and vice-chairman of SCP Worldwide, a private equity firm that specialized in consulting and investment in “undervalued franchises, venues, and media properties.” SCP were the original owners of Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake, and majority owners of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues from 2006-2011. In 2016 Howes was appointed Senior Strategic Advisor to the Rugby Utah executive leadership team.
While no official timetable has been given for its inaugural kickoff, it is understood that the league is targeting a spring opening to the season. More information on salaries, league structure, broadcasting, etc. will be confirmed ‘in the coming months.’ The press release in its entirety can be read below:
Salt Lake City UT: Beginning in 2018, Major League Rugby (MLR) will launch as a new professional rugby competition in North America. MLR will be the premier rugby competition in the United States. By drawing on the best domestic talent MLR will create an intense, fast paced competition and a top-tier media product. MLR will introduce rugby to the American sports mainstream, provide a focal point for millions of existing fans and bring even more new supporters to the game.
MLR will launch with members in: Glendale, CO; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; and Salt Lake City, UT. MLR will announce a final team and venue list, player contract information, and 2018 schedule, in the coming months. Beyond 2018, MLR will expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues.
Developing the game of rugby is at the core of the MLR model. MLR will create local destinations where rugby fans and families can come together to celebrate the highest levels of the American game. MLR stadia will be gathering places for rugby fans and local communities to gather around the game. By connecting the national to the local, MLR will invite America to join the unique, vibrant rugby family and discover its core values: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
MLR will reinvigorate the American rugby development pathway. By creating outreach programs to bring new players to the game and high-performance pathways to keep the best athletes in the sport, MLR will create the competitive environment to push the American game to the next level.
Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and one of the most popular sports in the world, as evidenced by the strong reception it received at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Rugby’s rising domestic growth and wide-reaching global fan base combine to create a unique environment for a professional league to succeed in the American market. While hundreds of local clubs have helped the sport to take hold in the U.S. during the past decade, Major League Rugby is poised to unite these fans under a common banner as rugby enters the American sports mainstream.
About MLR: MLR is an initiative driven by existing USA Rugby-member teams, in partnership with private investors, who believe that American rugby can thrive at the highest levels: as a commercial enterprise; as an influential player on the international scene; and as a participation sport at the youth and senior level.