Will 2016 be the year that rugby takes the US by storm?
In November 2015 the Rugby Football Union (RFU) closed in on a deal to bring the National Football League (NFL) to Twickenham, England’s home of rugby. It is the latest in a string of contracts with Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club that could result in London hosting over 7 regular-season NFL games a year from 2018. But with the Six Nations just kicking-off this week we ask, could rugby see a similar future?
In the rugby world, we saw the huge success of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and we look forward to the London Irish playing their Round 16 AVIVA Premiership fixture against reigning champions Saracens, across the pond in New York in March.
This is a huge milestone in the development of the Aviva Premier League, titled by Premiership Rugby’s Chief Executive, Mark McCafferty as the “most competitive league in world rugby with a fast-growing following outside England”.
The only previous high profile rugby match in America was between the USA and New Zealand, the best team in the world, last year. The fixture created an enormous amount of interest with a sellout crowd of 61,500, filling an NFL stadium and eclipsing America’s previous rugby attendance record of 20,181.
The London Irish vs Saracens fixture will take place on 12th March, which is fittingly the same week as New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade. With this timely connection and the large Irish community in New York, it is hoped this event will create a huge opportunity for both London Irish – through gaining international exposure – and America’s rugby legacy.
This match offers rugby union the opportunity to be showcased in one of the largest sports and business markets in the world, where it is currently the fastest growing sport. With more people playing rugby in America than in rugby powerhouses Australia, Wales and Scotland, this could help kick start USA Rugby’s hopes of a great future. America has already expressed an interest in hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup and might become Webb-Ellis Cup contenders in the not too distant future.
Transporting high profile matches across the Atlantic engages fans and increases the amount of followers worldwide, boosting revenue. It also presents huge potential for brands and rights holders. Since the NFL was brought to England in 2007, NFL viewership has doubled and the UK is estimated to hold a fan base of 13 million. There has also been a 75% increase in people watching the Super Bowl, American Football’s showcase finale, with peak viewing numbers of 120.8 million earlier this year. Rugby’s equivalent showcase, the World Cup Final, had an estimated viewing count of 120 million. If rugby’s exposure in New York is anything like the NFL’s track record in London, the potential viewing figures of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which may be staged in America, could be higher than any sporting event before.
This article was originally published by GlobalSportsJobs new partner Future Sport and you can read the original article in full here.
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Date published: 10 February 2016