vendredi 21 janvier 2011

A very soon MLR ?

The IRB tried to do it for years, it seems Americans by themselves will do it in several months. The most waiting professional league of rugby in the United States is nearer and nearer. In a recent tweet exchange, USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville answer me : "@rugbyglobal @mcuban yes, I have interest from a group of investors, its the next step for us...". You should ask you what Mark Cuban does in it. Simple, "@mcuban @NigelMelville Do you think it's time to launch a small pro league of #rugby in soccer-specific stadiums ? Is #NBC interested ?" was my original tweet. Maybe you ignore this, but Mark Cuban is a former rugby player. He already said in several interviews how he enjoyed the game, so his name frequently appears when you talk about possible investors in Pro Rugby. But Mark Cuban is not the only influent man who played rugby during his youth. That's the advantage of the game "for barbarians played by gentlemen". Two former US president, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush or Tony O'Reilly, former CEO of Heinz played rugby at different level. Money turns around US rugby since a long time, the problem was rugby unable to catch it.
What's new now ? Three words : Major League Soccer or specifically Soccer Specific Stadiums. The MLS is making its financial model by building human size cheaper stadiums. But now these stadiums are built, the question of their commercial success appears. They need events, they need to attract spectators. So what sport better matches association football pitch ? Rugby football ! Same size, same grass surface, same origin. Stadiums in Europe did the conversion every nearly week. USA Rugby quickly understand this and organized rugby events in The Home Deport Center (LA), Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Denver), Toyota Park (Chicago), Rio Tinto Stadium (Salt Lake), Colombus Crew Stadium, Red Bull Arena (NY) and soon at PPL Park (Philadelphia). All Soccer-specific stadiums but Pizza Hut Park in Dallas hosted or will host rugby events. It's now easy to understand why several MLS owners expressed interest in rugby. The most recent one is Robb Heineman, owner of Sporting Kansas City. He simply said he wants a pro rugby franchise in the new KC Soccer Stadium ! . When you see Nigel Melville tweet, you understand discussions are improving fast. When USA Rugby finally catch NBC as a rugby sevens broadcaster, the next step was broadcasting American rugby on a weekly basis, and nothing else than a professional league can allow this, so yes, the Major League Rugby is very near. And the MLS could participate because the MLR financial model will be the same as for soccer. In both sports, US National Team usually goes to the World Cup, is improving, but failed to win the trophy. Both sports massively attract a foreign-born or foreign descent population. Both sports correspond to an alternative way in sports. Both sports have a strong world wide fan base. Most of all, both sports have big financial supports.
The history of the MLS proves the 1994 FIFA World Cup wasn't the key to success. Don Garber bring success to the MLS changing the league strategy in 1999, assuming the foreign origin of soccer. Investors want to do the same with rugby and found common interests with stadium owners.