Thursday, January 19, 2012

USA to go pro in 2013?

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Last week an interesting article was published on Rugby America in relation to the ongoing rumours that the United States of America is going to launch a professional rugby tournament in 2013. The piece written by Ted Hardy points out that creating professional rugby in the USA is nothing new and that there is not one rumour going around but several. There is a party reportedly out to establish a Rugby Sevens Professional set up in the country and three separate parties intent on creating professional rugby union. The rumour surrounding Sevens will no doubt have been influenced by USA Rugby´s announcement that the union is to contract 23 players in preperation for Rugby Sevens Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Olympic Rugby would deter from the 15-man game here in the USA.

While should rugby go professional in the traditional form of rugby union (XV) there have been rumours that the format could be structured in three different ways in the USA. They are as follows:

1. A professional League involving teams from across the USA

2. A professional League involving USA and Canadians sides

3. A regional Professional League based in the Western USA.

Ted Hardy is of the opinion that the Eastern USA region covering the area from Boston to Washington D.C. is a prime spot for an East Coast competition. He points out that the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. are all well developed rugby communities and they could certainly be a good fit for teams. He goes on to say that there could in fact be up to four or five smaller semi-pro or professional leagues across the United States of America. The space and population size is not a problem but Hardy contends that the same cannot be said of the player pool neccessary to support more than one or two leagues. His argument is based on years of experience and thought. It has led him to believe that smaller, regional, professional leagues are probably the best route to take at this point in time for USA rugby. He suggests that there is not enough money for a trans-continental league and this is likely to be a great thing for whoever is working on this Western USA based league. If they can minimize the travel expenses and keep it small, they might be onto something. From there others can follow suit

He goes on to suggest that people in the Eastern coast region of the USA or in the Midwest should not feel negative towards being overlooked as they woulod fall outside of the Western League. As, afterall, should the Western League succeed there is every reason to believe that similar things could be replicated on the East Coast. This is, afterall, what happened with American Football before the eventual merger of the NFL/AFL in 1970. Hardy concludes that rugby needs to find what works in our current landscape and right now that is smaller, more regional competitions.

He may, indeed, be right on the money considering the region produced a large chunk of the players on show at Rugby World Cup 2011.  Covering California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington states the region does have a lot going for it. World Cup Eagles Chris Biller, Todd Clever, Eric Fry, Colin Hawley, Nic Johnson, Scott LaValla, Mike MacDonald, Brian McClenahan, Shawn Pittman, Lou Stanfill, Blaine Scully, Kevin Swiryn and John van der Giessen are all from the these states with most being from California. The region is also comercially prime for rugby as it contains the three cities which have hosted the USA leg of the IRB World Series since its creation - Los Angeles and San Diego in California and Las Vegas, Nevada.. Should a Western USA League be created then it would be great news for the Canadian powerhouse province of British Colombia which easily produces the largest number of players for the national team. A Vancouver based side would be able to compete in a Western USA venture and would increase the level of competition.

With Thanks: Rugby America

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