We have competitive baseball teams now in both the Bronx and Queens, soccer is moving along its path with both MLS and NASL, the Jets and Giants OTA’s keep us engaged and the NBA Draft isn’t that far away. Heck we even have beach volleyball coming to Manhattan again next week.
So what sport is suddenly intriguing to the New York sports fan? Rugby? Well maybe not today but down the line. First, this Saturday both Army and Fordham, along with a good number of former players at Manhattan high school powerhouse Xavier, will be playing in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships in Philadelphia, with over 30,000 people expected to attend and a good audience watching on NBC.
Then a week from Saturday the US and Ireland will meet in what should be a raucous meeting of close to 20,000 in traditional 15’s rugby at Red Bull Arena. Then you add in an announcement of a new, fast paced league, and the forerunner to football, which many say is the fastest growing sport in the United States, may be getting even more local visibility.
The league, called the North American Super 7’s Rugby League, will be run by Westchester based United World Sports, and will feature competition for men and women professionals. Super 7’s Rugby will begin with a barnstorming six city ‘Pro Tour’ next July, with a formal launch as a city by city property in 2018. According to the Sports Business Journal, the founders have seed money of over $5 million for the launch, with a budget of approximately $40 million needed to effective stage the league.
What exactly is it? Super 7’s will be an extended and slightly modified version of the Olympic game of Rugby Sevens, where an entire game is only 14 minutes long, to a model featuring games that are 4 x 15 quarters in duration. Rosters will be comprised of 16 and possibly up to 21 players, with free substitution which makes the game compelling to spectators and media partners as well.
“We are very pleased to be able to finally announce our plan of launching what is a very fast paced, exciting league for Rugby Sevens here in North America, ,” said United World Sports and Super 7s CEO and Founder Jon Prusmack in the release.
Where could they play? Sources have said the league will eye MLS and college type stadia of seating about 20,000. That would make places like Red Bull Arena or Columbia’s Baker Field, prime spots in the New York area for a season that would run in the late spring or summer. Rutgers, which is also growing its program and is close to a hotbed of rising talent in rugby in Central Jersey, could also be a fit at that time of year.
While talk of spring football comes and goes every year, a fast-paced version of rugby, with local grown stars and a budget to support it, is worth watching as it grows. Most startups fail for sure, but the soccer naysayers have looked to see where that sport has taken hold. Could rugby, with almost as big a global footprint as basketball and soccer be next? Let’s see where the scrum goes.