maybe a new pro rugby league during spring

If it takes off, which would be 2015, it would have 8 American teams and 2 Canadian teams. One of the two would almost certainly be Vancouver (the center of Canadian rugby) and I'd imagine the other would be Toronto.

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For years, we have heard about professional 7’s coming to the United States, which has worried many aficionados of the sport. While 7’s or Olympic Rugby, as some have come to refer to it as, is an incredibly fun and enjoyable version of rugby it cannot replace Rugby Union in the eyes of many fans. Recent years have not been kind to fans, that prayed for a professional 15’s competition, as most of the rumors and speculation have revolved around the proposed Grand Prix Rugby venture and if that will eventually turn 7’s professional in America.

That tide has somewhat changed in the past year or so. Reports confirm that there is concrete interest, on many fronts, in a professional 15’s competition. To back that up, there are currently not one, but two, organizations pursuing professional 15’s here in North America. In fact, there is the possibility that there could also be a third suitor.

Many may wonder why so many?

The vision of professional rugby in North America has taken on many visages over the years and there is not a consensus opinion. Should it start as a smaller semi-professional competition, a more robust fully professional setup, or fall somewhere in the middle? What is known is that each of the two confirmed groups have different views on what the birth of professional rugby in North America should look like.

At this juncture, it is anyone’s game. Information gathered appears to suggest that USA Rugby will back the operation that is first to the finish line with investors and a product ready for the next step. The race is on.

As part of our commitment to provide all of the information possible, in the past couple of weeks I have been in contact with Jason Moore who is spearheading the American Professional Rugby Competition. The APRC is one of the two organizations pursuing the creation of professional rugby in North America.

With the help of fans who submitted questions, here is my initial Q&A session with Jason Moore. The total interview yielded far more information than one article can hold. In the coming weeks, there will be a series of separate articles focusing on specific areas of the APRC’s start up, plans, and future.

Without further delay…

Ted Hardy: Getting things started, I love the logo. It fits perfectly with the other American professional sports league logos. That said, is the American Pro Rugby Competition the official name of the operation or are there plans to change the name?

Jason Moore: Thanks for your comment on the logo. Yes, the APRC is the competition name – however – we plan to sell naming rights to the competition (i.e. “Citibank Rugby Championship? or “Budweiser Pro Rugby Cup?). But the official competition logo would need to incorporate the APRC logo.

TH: What is the commercial structure of the competition going to be like? A centrally contracted model like Major League Soccer, profit sharing like the NFL or every man for himself?

JM: The APRC head office will be responsible for running the competition administration – referee’s, schedule, finals series, overall marketing, competition related sponsorship, some of the merchandise and broadcast. The franchises will essentially operate everything themselves – marketing for their season tickets & matches, player & coaching staff recruitment & salaries, administration, team related sponsorship, etc. The franchises will therefore retain all the revenue from their home games, sponsorship, etc. Therefore, each franchise will be responsible for their financial health and on field performances.

TH: Including the initial franchise fee, how much money do you expect a franchise owner to spend in the first year of operation?

JM: The initial franchise license fee is $2.5M. We have run sample franchise budgets, as a guide, that indicate there will be up to a $7.5M further cash flow funding requirement over the first four years. For clarity, that is 2014 (pre-competition), 2015 (1st season), 2016 (2nd season), and 2017 (3rd season) – before a franchise should be running cash flow positive each year (2017 & beyond).

TH: Franchise turnover has plagued many start up professional sports in America. How many years of operational expenses will owners be required to commit to the APRC?
JM: As part of the franchise selection criteria, we will require the proposed franchise owner(s) or ownership group to show the appropriate financial capacity to fund as described above. We may in certain instances require bank guarantees or funds held in trust. We are being very clear and transparent with regards to this point.

TH: Will the competition be open to only USA and Canadian eligible players? If foreign players are allowed, how many will be allowed per team?

JM: Each franchise will have 25 full-time contracted players, which will need to fit within a $1.75M salary cap. In the first four seasons, each franchise can have up to twelve (12) imported or foreign players, with the balance (13) being US or Canadian eligible. This will reduce over time to five (5) in season seven (2021). A further five (5) minimum additional squad members are also required. These must be US/Canadian players and are paid a match fee only ($2500/game). We envisage that these players are playing for a local club side until required by the franchise. However, they would train with the franchise. We had to require this quantity of foreign players, as one of the key aspects in growing the competition is that we need to display a significantly higher standard of play in order for mainstream US to see a difference from the product currently available. Our goal is to provide a product that is slightly below Super Rugby standard in the initial years. As revenue increases, so will the player salary cap. TV broadcast rights play a major role in this as we don’t anticipate any TV broadcast revenue in the first two seasons, with only very small revenue in seasons 3 & 4.

TH: How will teams be established? Will all eligible players be treated as “Free Agents??

JM: The APRC will identify up to 100 US and Canadian players that will be capable of playing at the required standard. We will conduct a twelve (12) week intensive training camp in 2014, prior to the franchises requiring them (players) around November/December 2014. These players will be treated as “free agents? and franchises will negotiate with them (or their managers/agents) to play for their respective franchises. The APRC will be a party to every player’s contract. In the set up phase we will also make available consultants to each franchise that will assist with foreign players and coaching staff. In reality, a franchise should appoint a head coach first, who would then put together the playing and coaching squad. Franchises can actually get player however and wherever they wish. Particularly in the initial years.

TH: Any thoughts on holding a player draft?

JM: We do have plans that there will be a player draft process in the future. However, we need to have a 12 or 14 team competition in order to make that viable.

TH: What is the target range for player salaries? Do you expect players to be able to pursue rugby full-time year round, during the APRC season, or will it be part-time professional as with Major League Lacrosse?

JM: The salary cap in place comes out to an average annual salary of $70K per player. Players will be fully professional.

TH: Escalating salaries in many pro sports leagues has led to competitive imbalance and in some cases, total ruination for leagues. Is there going to be a salary cap for APRC?

JM: The salary cap is $1.75M per team.

TH: Moving on to prospective franchises, you noted that there were approximately twenty markets in North American that could comfortably host a team. You had mentioned MLS stadiums as a benchmark of sorts in regards to playing facilities. Are there any worries that the capacity of those stadiums may be too big for a brand new competition?

JM: I believe that the reason that a pro rugby competition has not materialized in the past is that the thinking and planning has been for a too small competition model. Anything less than a 16,000 seat venue sends a lot of the wrong messages to the potential supporter base. It also has to be a venue where professional sports are played. Our target market is not just the current rugby follower and community, it is the NFL fan looking for an off-season contact sport. This is why we will run the season 1st week of March to the last week of August. Mainly to avoid the NFL season and to tap into their fan base by providing a complementary product at a very reasonable price. Our research shows that there is significant curiosity and interest within the NFL supporter market. Given the scale, we only require a very small percentage of that market to start to engage.

TH: In your interview with Peter Fagan, the subject of geography came up when referring to early spring games. The West is not as big of an issue compared to the East. A nice, tight configuration of teams in the Northeast corridor… New York, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington would certainly cut down on travel expenses and produce some nice natural rivalries. However, those places can be miserable in the early spring, which not only hurts the product on the field, but also attendance figures. How much of that comes into play when approaching prospective franchise owners?

JM: There is a concern with weather in the first several weeks of competition. We do have several strategies, which will assist with minimizing this issue. However, it is what it is. We will ideally look for a mix of franchise locations that will allow us to schedule the initial rounds in Southern, Central, and Western locations.

TH: Has there been any franchise interest coming from the Southeast?

JM: Not as of yet, but in fairness we have not approached anyone in that region.

TH: This is a concept that has been foreign to American sports, but certainly has merit. Has there been any interest in existing pro sports teams leveraging their existing brands in the way that some European clubs have multiple sports (FC Barcelona has soccer, basketball, etc.)?

JM: Yes, we are in discussions with rugby teams and owners globally.

TH: How confident are you in achieving the October deadline in terms of sign up of the necessary ten franchises? Have you received a commitment from any owners?

JM: We are optimistic that we will get the required ten franchises, but it should be noted that there is still plenty of work to be done. We have spoken to several organizations who are owners of part-owners of NHL teams as well as some tied to the NFL and MLS.

TH: With October looming, say you ended up with eight franchises… are you able to move forward with less than ten teams?

JM: We wouldn’t move forward with eight, we’d figure out how to get the other two. We built and tested multiple permutations in regards to the number of teams and there are several reasons why we can’t move forward with less than ten teams.

TH: Are there any plans to support youth, high school, college, and even club rugby development, as those will be the fan base and players of your present and future?

JM: Yes, absolutely. The engagement of the local community of each franchise location is of paramount importance. We also want to give very clear and identifiable pathways to juniors.

TH: In closing, are there any lessons that you have learned from the failures and successes of the various soccer and lacrosse pro leagues over the years?

JM: Too many to mention. We have specifically spent a lot of time talking with people connected, past and present, with MLS and have learned a lot from their experiences… both positive and negative.

That wraps up our initial session. If this has merely whetted your appetite for more, stay tuned. The total interview covered an expansive amount of territory in depth. Additional focused articles are in the works and will cover many of these areas in detail as well as touch on some new topics.

It is very important to keep in mind that nothing is a “done deal? yet. With the October benchmark less than nine months away, the clock is ticking. The ability of the APRC to present their model and entice owners/investors will be the deciding factor. Without franchises, the APRC will not happen.

However, as fans there is no need to feel helpless. Fans can play a role. Talk about it, share it, and show your passion. If you want professional rugby to happen, let it be known. There have been many instances, in the past, of fan movements creating the momentum to bring professional franchises into their areas. We have all seen the power of social media… look no further than Carlin Isles, American rugby’s first viral video star. Fans have the power to influence far more than in which they are given credit.

Someone once told me, “most people only have two or three degrees of separation from someone that has the power and money to enact changes or influence.?

Find your people, build the momentum and let us create a wave of excitement. Perhaps a potential owners will see it and get off the fence. If the rugby community does not show excitement over the prospects of professional rugby in North America, then how can an owner expect fans from other sports to get excited?

Take it to the street.

A rugby league would be awesome, as it is my favourite sport. I really hope they do it right though.

Well, who knows, rugby might be the only gridiron like sport in a few decades, after reading this article.

Bernard Pollard stands by prediction that NFL won't last

[i]NEW ORLEANS — Bernard Pollard is known for hard hits (just ask the New England Patriots), and he leveled one at the NFL this week when he predicted the league wouldn't be around in 30 years, because the crackdown on ferocious hits will turn off fans.

On Tuesday, at Super Bowl XLVII media day, the Baltimore Ravens safety didn't back down.

"There's (a) car crash every play," he said. "Those helmets are popping, those pads are hitting. This is a grown man's game.

"I stand by what I said. I'm entitled to my own opinion. I play this game. I understand his game. For me, growing up, to see where the game has gone from then to now, it's a very special game, but it's changing."And not for the better, Pollard says. While he believes the game is on its way out, he has a solution: Don't change it.

"They're talking about taking kickoffs away and playing only offense and defense," he said. "Guys will lose their jobs — punters and kickers and long snappers. We can't change something that's been built.

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Can modern day football survive being almost a kissing cousin to rugby? Pollard doesn't think so, seems to me, and who knows, he might be right. :? Maybe this is rugby's time to really go pro and start challenging somewhat gridiron, a bit along the lines of what soccer seems to be doing with "football" in NA albeit soccer can't go any further while rugby can, it more closely resembles gridiron and could probably take a lot of fans away from it if parents don't want their kids playing gridiron any more. As I say, who knows. :?

This is interesting, but I wonder what laws of the game will be changed by the IRB before 2015 as will also improve the appeal of the game to fans.

As rugby union stands now, it is the most fun sport many like me have ever played but one of the most dull to watch for sake of most games. Don't get me wrong, as it is not as bad as baseball for the average sports fan or many an NBA game.

Sometimes you will see some good action via the Super XV in the Southern Hemisphere (SANZAR = South Africa, New Zealand, Australia) where the best rugby in the world is played, but otherwise there are too many stoppages of play.

I guess I will keep practicing my drop kicks, place kicks, and punts from time to time too.

Hard to make stoppage of play an argument when we're on a football forum :lol:

Yeah, it can be slow sometimes, but I hope to hell they don't change it to make it "more entertaining". That ideology is destroying the NHL and the NBA.

In rugby, beyond any interest in fair play and to open things up, I'd be for automatic sin-binning of one player after a certain number of multiple penalties in a row by his side when on defence.

I'd rather have automatic time in the sin-bin done to open things up rather than some team ahead just playing dirty to slow down the game and waste time in the second half or some team far behind just taking cheap shots.

Of course the referee would retain the same discretion as now to send immediately to the sin-bin or expel any given player for a grievous violation of the laws of the game.

Say for example the number is three penalties on any three or fewer consecutive occasions when a team is not in possession of the ball. All other laws still apply of course.

If a player commits more than one of the three consecutive penalties, that is the player sent off to the sin bin.

If each of three players on the team not in possession commit one of the three consecutive penalties, the last player who violated the laws would have to sit out for 10 minutes.

If at least two of the three consecutive penalties by a team without possession occur in the last 10 minutes of the match, that same player sits out the rest of the match plus also the first 10 minutes of the next match in any given tournament or for the next match in union play.

Otherwise if the third consecutive penalty occurs in the last ten minutes, that player sits out only the remainder of the match including in tournament play for any extra time.

Isn't rugby very big at STFX university in Nova Scotia. Is that a school thing or a regional thing?

In rugby, beyond any interest in fair play and to open things up, I'd be for automatic sin-binning of one player after a certain number of multiple penalties in a row by his side when on defence.
Yeah, refs do that now. Have been for a long time. It's their discretion of course.

The one bad thing about rugby union at the moment from a rules perspective is they need to improve the scrum because there's too much gaming of it going on by frontrows leading to reset after reset because the ref is guessing who is at fault. Other than that, rugby union as a sport is fine.

Isn't rugby very big at STFX university in Nova Scotia. Is that a school thing or a regional thing?
I can't speak for St. Francis Xavier but the two recognized best universities in the sport in Canada are University of Victoria and University of British Columbia, in part due to Rugby Canada's decree that if you're a good rugby player from anywhere in the country, you should come live on Vancouver Island. The B.C. rugby community in turn has their nose very way up in the air and you get some truly delusional people.

The other hot spot after B.C. is Newfoundland are very good at the game considering they have a very small player base. The rest of the Atlantic provinces I don't think are anything special. I played rugby this past year with a guy that represented Quebec on the provincial level (I live in the States), but it's almost wholly English speakers that play in Quebec, the only French speakers that play the game in Quebec largely he said were people that were actually from France (rugby's very popular in southern France) and it's been a very long time since a French Canadian has been selected for the national team. Ontario produces a lot of your talent just because it's Ontario and they have a lot of people. The Prairies produce some.

Here's your last roster per the Rugby Canada site:

- Tyler Ardron - - 194 110 Lakefield, Ontario - Kyle Armstrong - - 178 82 Whitby, Ontario - Ray Barkwill - - 180 103 Niagara Falls, Ontario - Brett Beukeboom - - 196 113 Lindsay, Ontario - Nick Blevins - - 187 98 Calgary, Alberta - Connor Braid - - 185 82 Victoria, British Columbia - Hubert Buydens - - 191 120 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Aaron Carpenter - - 183 107 Brantford, Ontario - Nanyak Dala - - 178 100 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Tom Dolezel - - 173 103 London, Ontario - Sean Duke - - 189 89 Vancouver, British Columbia - Matt Evans - - 183 93 Duncan, British Columbia - Ed Fairhurst - - 183 92 Regina, Saskatchewan - Ryan Hamilton - - 182 104 West Vancouver, British Columbia - Jeff Hassler - - 178 96 Okotoks, Alberta - Ciaran Hearn - - 190 100 Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador - Tyler Hotson - - 196 110 Vancouver, British Columbia - Harry Jones - - 185 90 North Vancouver, British Columbia - Phil Mack - - 170 77 Victoria, British Columbia - Phil Mackenzie - - 185 96 Oakville, Ontario - Jason Marshall - - 191 117 North Vancouver, British Columbia - John Moonlight - - 187 103 Pickering, Ontario - Chauncey O'Toole - - 185 105 Belleisle, New Brunswick - Taylor Paris - - 180 80 Barrie, Ontario - Jon Phelan - - 203 112 Montreal, Quebec - Mike Pletch - - 180 113 Lucan, Ontario - James Pritchard - - 175 85 Parkes, Australia - Mike Scholz - - 183 100 London, Ontario - Jebb Sinclair - - 193 111 Charters Settlement, New Brunswick - Andrew Tiedemann - - 183 115 St. Albert, Alberta - Conor Trainor - - 188 95 Vancouver, British Columbia - Liam Underwood - - 188 91 Toronto, Ontario - DTH van der Merwe - - 183 99 Regina, Saskatchewan - Sean White - - 181 85 Victoria, British Columbia - Eric Wilson - - 173 84 Vancouver, British Columbia - Doug Wooldridge - - 180 106 Lindsay, Ontario

I play on team BC, and I've gotta say Newfoundland definitely is a step above the other atlantic provinces. However I know at least one guy on one their team a few years back was from Ontario, so who knows. They have improved significantly in the past couple years, I can tell you that much.

As far as Quebec born players, Jon Phelan was born in Montreal. He's not a regular, but he does get games every now and then.

This would be sweet.

I was interested until I noticed it would be a 7's league. I think i'll stick with Union and the Canadian Rugby Championship. :rockin:

Read the article again. It is rugby union/15s. Otherwise I feel the same as do you about 7s.

It really is a shame that the networks are trying to cash in on 7s rather than real rugby. 7s is fun to play and has a great festival atmosphere, but you can't make a competitive league out of it. I hope that 15's picks up, especially in the states.

This is excellent and very exciting news to be sure; but I still feel that we should all be rallying around the Canadian Rugby Championship and supporting it just as we support the CFL, with the hope that the CRC will grow into a professional league and expand to a coast to coast pure Canadian owned and operated league.

Have you been to any CRC games? They're great fun. Unfortunately it'll be a long time before it becomes professional, which if this league becomes reality, it never will.

For the record I'm very skeptical. This is a competitor to the league in the first post.

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There is no doubt that they could get the athletes to convert to the sport but how much attention would it receive and would it be money making sport. NFL, MLB, and NBA will still rule as sports with its roots to the great US of A. Hockey also still on top with the US looking to be the best at a sport in which once was Canadian dominated.
Soccer being the worlds sport has gotten some success with it taking a small crowd stadium approach. Even though it is an outdoor game being played in stadiums not much bigger in capacity to an NBA or NHL game has made a nice fit.
The old approach of having 70K fans like in Europe was not going to happen.

You obviously don't know squat about football in Europe. MLS teams average much closer in attendance to European club teams then you suspect.... Its the fact that people in Europe actually watch the games on TV is why there is so much money in the sport. No one watches the MLS on TV and thus they have no revenue.....Educate yourself on this little morsel of information. ... ts_leagues
There are only 3 football leagues in Europe that average 30 K......never mind your outlandish claim ofr 70K.... Not even Milkem's mighty NFL pulls in 70K

Live and learn. I learn something new everyday. So if the worlds game only gets those crowds but does have a huge TV following what kind of numbers are we looking at for rugby ?
In the NFL is so concerned about finding jobs for the many unemployed football players maybe they should go back to funding a developmental spring or a winter dome league.

Or maybe the NFL and an owner or two build a stadium in Quebec City and Halifax and purchase a CFL team as well that would create more jobs for US football players as well. NFL owners have bought into Arena Football teams in the past and MLS soccer teams so why not invest in a sport that already has a successful model and pretty good fan base and some fine TV numbers at over 700K per game. No rugby league will get those kinds of TV ratings

It should be pointed out on this forum if this league takes off, it'd be competing against the CFL for some of the American talent that comes north the CFL normally gets. But that's one reason I see a lot of headwinds, Canadian football is pretty much the same sport as American football and the minimum salary is $50000. For this rugby league then if they want those players, not only do they have to teach these guys a new sport and they may or may not get it, but they'd have to match what they could make in the CFL (since if these guys do want to play in the NFL someday, the CFL is a better route than rugby unless they've given up on that dream).

Re MLS, this is what I said elsewhere:

The vision: think big, start big. Robertson and Clements believe that the prudent, slow start made by MLS since its formation in 1996 has doomed soccer to limited growth and appeal in the US. They feel that Americans will only embrace a new competition if it is high-grade right from the start and that fans will not have the patience to wait a decade or more for a league to become credible, as was the case with MLS.
These guys have completely misread MLS and have learned none of their lessons. The Galaxy at one point played in the Rose Bowl, where they held the World Cup Final in 1994. The reason they built a smaller stadium somewhere else was 5000 people attending a game in a 90000-seat stadium isn't a lot of fun. The league started out large-scale in terms of stadiums and where they played. They had a bunch of name players to start, almost all of the national team came to play in the league, and year one it did well as a novelty. Year two the fans started disappearing, and they had these monstrosity rent payments on these NFL stadiums. The MetroStars when they played at Giants Stadium lost $250k per game just for the rent payment. When MLS went small, it saved the league's existence. If they don't play in smaller stadiums because they're not going to get NFL crowds regardless of how good the product is or if people start embracing it, this league will fail.
I think this leads down another path, what type of salaries are we talking here in the US?
Well that's one thing. MLS when it started, the rank-and-file guys that were benchers literally had nowhere else to go play because they weren't good enough to warrant a pro contract anywhere til the league started up, and they got something like $15k. For the guys they want to get for this, they can play Arena ball, they can play CFL. CFL gets ridiculed in this country, but that's a good middle-class living starting out for a player wanting to use that as time to build toward making the NFL and is a larger more prosperous league than some pro rugby leagues around the world. Toronto draws 25k per game and that's the worst attendance in the CFL, yet that's larger than what Leicester gets. The Rabo 12, every team in that competition is a joke compared to the CFL with the exceptions of Leinster and Munster. Put the Scarlets' fanbase or Edinburgh's fanbase alongside the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Higher attendances and higher TV ratings, the only difference is there's no Sky in Canada that will pay out the nose to broadcast the league and there's no national teams that inflates certain players' salaries.

The CFL minimum salary in 2013 is set at $50000 per Wikipedia. Now half the league in the CFL is required to be Canadian or to have played the game in Canada for a set period of time. But if you're the hypothetically best non-NFL player coming out of college, you get cut in preseason camp, unless this rugby league offers you $50k which I don't think they financially can, you'd go play up in Canada as an Import, which is far closer rules-wise to the NFL than rugby.

There's also the positions of what do you do where football does not transfer well like scrum half and fly half?

Too many questions at this point have been unanswered to say we have a credible plan in front of us. All we know is the NFL have signed on to host a game in 3 months and they want to have combines made up of who as the NFL when they want to have this rugby combine will be having preseason training camps of 90 players at 32 teams? They're trying to create a rugby league from scratch to be larger than the CFL to draw those players away from the CFL, when the CFL itself is larger than the Premiership, the Rabo 12, the NPC, and the Currie Cup.