About a month ago I started to hear rumours of a new professional rugby league for North America. Over the last couple of days these have solidified and a formal announcement could be as soon as next week.
There has been a buildup of noise around rugby in North America and in the USA in particular. Whilst a lot of it has been positive it hasn’t all been. The NRFL is another professional rugby league that’s been trying to get off the ground. They have had to cancel at least three exhibition games involving Aviva Premiership and Super Rugby sides over the past couple of years. This has been due, at least in part, to not working with USA Rugby the governing body.
On the positive side of things we have seen the All Blacks, Wallabies and Harlequins play the Eagles. Both nations will also be taking part in the new Americas 6 Nations that kicks off next year and the All Blacks will be visiting the USA again.
Away from the pitch the RFU invested in a joint venture with USA Rugby to promote the game. All in all there has been a lot of good to shout about. This may have fuelled some unrealistic expectations for the Rugby World Cup where both countries lost all their games but the performances were better than the results.
The New League
With no formal announcement and a very limited Facebook page, how the league will look is still based a lot on rumours. I have heard that the league could be anything from 4-8 teams but 6 appears to be the right number. There have been suggestions of anything from 0-2 Canadian teams included in that. 2 is looking unlikely and apparently 1 is looking tricky for the first year. So we can expect a 6 team league with at least 5 based in the USA. Locations are very much best guess but New York, Chicago and Sacramento or at least 1 team in California would seem sensible. After that perhaps another team in California, Texas which has hosted internationals before, Florida where I have seen 7s tournaments advertised and Las Vagas the home of the World Rugby Sevens stop in the USA spring to mind. Maybe Vagas is more of a weekend tournament party town, we’ll just have to wait and see. For Canada it appears to be either Vancouver or Toronto with the former the favourite if there is a team based there for the opening season.
The plans are for a 10 week regular season with a final at the end, running from mid-April through to the end of July. There will be a rest week and a break for the June international window. This means the USA and Canadian internationals will play the Americas 6 Nations then go into preseason for this tournament before having a break and meeting up again for the November internationals.
I think that this league is more likely to happen than the NRFL, as they claim to be sanctioned by World Rugby and the governing bodies from both the USA and Canada. Also they are getting their players from the national sides and the local club scene with a few extra internationals. This is in contrast to NRFL that was looking at American Football and basketball converts. There is talk of working with local clubs, so players could move up and down, as well as hosting exhibition 7s games at halftime and growing the whole rugby community.
So far though it’s all talk/rumour and I could be getting caught up in an elaborate hoax. Let’s hope not and that PRO Rugby is the start of rugby really breaking into the North American market.
UPDATE – There is going to be an announcement on Monday the 9th of November so it will be interesting to see what they have to say.