A Milestone weekend for Rugby in America! 3

What a weekend for celebration for the rugby community in America.  Not only could we watch every SuperRugby match played this weekend for ‘free’ (if you consider ESPN free), but we also get the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup, AND a very presentable American ProRugby competition.   Within 36 hours this weekend, we had access to watch the fun, wide open play of Brumbies v. Crusaders, the brutality of Wasps v. Saracens (well done Chris Wyles), and settle into AOL’s feed  of the American ProRugby venues. All this in addition to the numerous, if dysfunctional collegiate “championships” around the country, and we lest not forget the World Rugby feed every 3-4 weeks of the World 7’s Circuit is simply AWESOME!

There are so many people, so very passionate about the game here as we move into ‘prime time’.  It’s time to hit that Tipping Point.  Attn: NaySayers – No negative comments, we’re not interested. If you thought it could be better, it will be.  It’s here, support it.

Well done, Stephen Lewis & Co.

I admit it, I had my doubts ProRugby could get the first weekend done. Heck, ProRugby COO Stephen Lewis admitted the same thing. It’s here, and I’m behind it 100%.  Congratulations Stephen and all else involved in putting on events that are outstanding given the time and resources they had to work with.   Today, there is professional rugby in the USA accessible online to anyone that wants to watch.

Does it stand for improvement?  Sure it does…but, who thought over 2,000 would weather a blizzard in Denver and over 3,000 in each of the other 3 venues in the first two weekends would attend ProRugby.  Let’s hope spectators aren’t “one and done”, but it sure looked as good as it could be to me.

ProRugby:  Focus on the Similarities, Not the Differences!

Inevitably, there will be some unfair comparisons – it’s hard to compare 3,000 at Torero Stadium in San Diego to 25,000 at The Ricoh (Wasps).  The difference in body types of the players is evident (not in the Americans favor), but what a great start. It’s also refreshing to see a female referee doing the SFO/Denver pro game today.

There are still a lot of questions about the ‘monetization’ of the league (i.e., how can it become financially sustainable). But at this stage, there is only one person who needs to worry about that, league founder Doug Schoninger.

‘Let’s just make it to the 2nd season’ , is a fine mantra in my opinion.

If ProRugby version 1.0 doesn’t make it in it’s current form, it will continue in some form, perhaps through a 2nd group of ‘franchise owners’ that the league ultimately offers. There are certainly more vehicles than ever before for investors interested in the professional USA rugby space to place their funds.  What’s going on down in Texas anyway?

The 2nd season will be ‘better’ than the first; more teams, more geographical representation.  Season 3 will improve on that.  At that time, we’ll see better crowds in better venues (MLS stadiums?).  The USA will always attract international players (people love coming to the USA!, its true). We now are giving the great ones something to really come for.

ProRugby – What’s the purpose?

Although  I’d like to see these Pro Teams integrated/overlayed with some of the existing club structure, I also understand the league’s necessity to control all the contracts. Such integration with current structure could help to ensure growth of the culture of the game in the USA as well, and create the unification of support that will ultimately determine our success or failure at all levels.

At the elite level, both SuperRugby and the European competitions force all of the prospective national team players to face up against their individual competitors week in and week out.  I don’t believe this type of competition has ever existed in the USA.  The Super League was a good effort at the time, and the long lost Inter-Territorial Championships (ITT’s) pitted America’s best against each other only for 3 days across one very long Memorial Day weekend.  ProRugby will create the competitiveness where our elite players can compete week-in and week-out against one another. This is crucial for our elite players, and every game that current Eagles play in ProRugby against guys wanting their USA jersey will only make each of them better.

Leadership Challenge – CEO USA Rugby

The new CEO at USA Rugby will have an enormous opportunity to outline the vision of this future and create alignments necessary to integrate all the different leagues, competitions, both amateur and now professional. What a challenge to take the momentum the American rugby community is creating and create all the clear pathways that will ultimately lead to our success at the elite level.

The All-In Moment

This is now an all-in moment for all of us in the American Rugby community.  I have to imagine there were dozens of unpaid volunteers last week in Denver and Sacramento, and this week in San Francisco and San Diego putting in their time/effort just because they care for the game. That type of support won’t continue forever. There will have to be alliances created between ProRugby and the people who work so tirelessly in the existing USA rugby structure. Hopefully our leadership will manage that.  ProRugby in the USA is here.  It now should be the unifier for us all; those who care primarily about the elite teams, or the club teams, or the age grade game. Complaining about how it could/should be different is wasted breathe.

The new USAR CEO will have to work with this landscape already in place (let’s agree at least we have it in place!), and let’s hope he/she has the leadership skills to bring it all together. There is a strategic plan being developed by USAR at this time; and apparently the new CEO will have that thrust upon him/her.  ProRugby must be a component, and as it stands today will serve a great function in development of rugby in the USA if integrated properly.

Today I’ve enjoyed Leicester vs. Racing 92, but looked most forward to watching Ohio vs. Denver available to us in the USA. It’s just the beginning. I’ll overlook the pudgier bodies, and with the proper leadership it won’t be long until our level is world class.

Congratulations American Rugby Community. Celebrate today.

3 comments

  1. This is the best think to happen to rugby in the US since the USA7s. Lets build on it. The players need to be a little more available to the kids, parents and fans. I know your tired after the game. Have a bottle of Gatorade with us.

  2. I watch (when I can, barring internet restrictions) from the UK.
    I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
    Great attendance numbers as well.
    I run a group on Rugby Facebook where I publicise the game along with other countries.
    Pop along.

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