Saturday, February 5, 2011

USA Rugby records a 40% Growth in four years

One of the worlds premier news and international affairs publications, The Economist printed an article yesterday titled Worth a Try about the future of rugby in the USA. The article pointed out progress made by USA Rugby authorities with the sport being the fastest growing team sport in the country and the union has recorded a boom of 40% in playing numbers over the past four years. Despite professional U.S. sport being dominated by the likes of the American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey and WWE Wrestling it is rugby that is leading the war of attracting the youth to take up the sport. As reported in the article and by USA Rugby, close to 360,000 children played a non-contact form of rugby at school in 2010. This goes a long way to explain rugby´s growth at the expense of more traditional sports such as hockey. The USA’s Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association said that 750,000 Americans played rugby in 2009 which is over 20% more than in 2007.

The growth can be attributed to a number of factors. The first being the governing body of rugby in the country, USA Rugby which certainly appears to have a solid understanding of this and of how to turn it into a better USA Eagles side. In March USA Rugby will launch a College League which will provide teams with the opportunity of competiting in a national wide competition split into four regions with the top two from each advancing to the playoffs in May. The creators of the league are banking on it attracting potential young players from high-schools to further increase not only playing numbers but also quality.

The second crucial factor for USA rugby is the Olympics as the progress of the profile of the sport and quality of players already appears to have been influenced by the decision to include Rugby Sevens in the Olympic Games starting with the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Whilst the USA are not considered to be one the the contenders for a Medal, there is no doubt whatsoever that Rugby´s inclusion is indeed attracting and will continue to attract more youngsters to the sport. In turn this will increase tv exposure in the country which is an absolutely key factor to showcase the sport to the public and to show what it has to offer to potential players.

This years Rugby World Cup which will take place in New Zealand in September and October will be the largest sporting event of the year and the USA will take on powerhouse countries including Australia, Ireland and Italy. The most attractive clash however will be that of the USA vs the newcomers to the Rugby World Cup - Russia. It will be broadcast on free to air television in the USA on the NBC network which will also be broadcasting the IRB World Sevens Series USA leg of the tournament which will be hosted this month in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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