London Irish RFC’s American Dream

Why the rugby club’s announcement is big news for business

London Irish RFC’s American Dream
English rugby clubs London Irish and Saracens will play each other in New York in the Aviva Premiership’s first ever overseas fixture in the build-up to the city’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The two London clubs will swap the Big Smoke for the Big Apple on March 12, with the Exiles’ home fixture set to be staged at the 25,000 capacity Red Bull Arena, home of the New York Red Bulls football team. London Irish chief executive Bob Casey said the club intended to be at “the forefront of the development of the game in the USA”.

But how will this help both rugby’s coverage in the States and the club’s profile in the most lucrative sports market in the world? According to a 2014 study, rugby is the fastest-growing sport in the USA, with participation numbers increasing 81 per cent from 2008-13.

Brendan McKibbin of London Irish spins the ball out - Photo mandatory by-line: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle - Tel: +44(0)1363 881025 - Mobile: 0797 1270 681 - 18/10/2015 - SPORT - RUGBY UNION - AVIVA PREMIERSHIP - London Irish v Leicester Tigers - Madejski Stadium, Reading, EnglandLondon Irish RFC’s American Dream

This year’s Rugby World Cup brought the sport to the forefront of the viewing public with major channel NBC showing nine live matches and Universal Sport broadcasting live coverage of seven matches and online streaming of all 48 matches.

In terms of London Irish, playing a game abroad has been a priority for the 117-year-old club since 2011, when then chief exec Andy Martin talked up the idea of playing a Heineken Cup tie with anItalian team in Boston.

London Irish Chief Executive Officer, Bob Casey said: This is an enormous opportunity for London Irish and a chance for our Club to gain exposure in one of the biggest sporting cities in the world. The New York region has a significant Irish community and is renowned for its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, so it’s the perfect time for our Club to venture into this market. London Irish RFC’s American Dream

The timing of the club’s home fixture capitalises on the huge tourist base of New York around St Patrick’s Day and marks the club as the one sporting team to follow as the thousands of first, second and third generation Iris people living in the region.

Rugby is set for an exciting time with Rugby World Cup 2015 reaching its final stages, the inclusion of 7’s in the 2016 Olympic Games, and now the first ever Aviva Premiership fixture in the USA. We are well placed to capitalise on these exceptional opportunities to create a lasting legacy for both rugby and London Irish. We intend to continue to be at the forefront of the development of the game in the USA, Mr Casy continued.

Their opponents for the fixture have also been happy travellers. In 2012, Saracens played a non-competitive match against Asia Pacific Barbarians in Hong Kong and a Heineken Cup match against Racing Metro in Brussels, while proposed games in UAE and South Africa have been called off. The match follows suit of the highly successful NFL crossover, with fixtures being played in Wembley to attempt to draw in more customers for the American Football franchise, with the UK sports industry being estimated as being worth £23.8 billion.

The US sports industry however is second to none and is estimated to reach a net worth of £44 billion by 2017. In America the number of rugby participants has increased 14 per cent year-on-year since 2010 to reach a total of 1.2 million participants throughout the country. NBC recently televised the United States (Eagles) game against the All Blacks, which garnered the largest audience ever for an international contest as close to 62,000 fans packed Soldier Field in Chicago.

The packed house signals that the growing popularity of the sport is in fact legitimate and shows Bob Casey’s determination to break the US in terms of new fans, as professional teams around the globe look to turn participants into viewers, and customers.

Australia and New Zealand have both staged full internationals in Chicago in the last two years, yet the Exiles’ meeting with Sarries is the first competitive European club match to take place in America. Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby’s Chief Executive said: This is a significant day in the history of Premiership Rugby and one that has taken a number of years and a lot of hard work to bring to fruition.

London Irish RFC’s American Dream

Premiership Rugby is the most competitive league in world rugby with a fast-growing following outside England and we are delighted to stage a competitive match in the USA. There are ambitious plans to grow the game in the States and this is the latest stage in that strategy. I’d like to thank both London Irish for their support and vision in making this bold step as well as Saracens and our partners; TLA Worldwide and USA Rugby. We firmly believe this will be a great success and will showcase live Aviva Premiership Rugby to a new audience.

We are looking forward to bringing these two world class clubs to the New York area for what will be a memorable matchup, said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville, who will be advising on the match.

Our sport continues to grow in the United States, and we believe this event will be another big step forward in the growth of the game.Ticket information Match tickets are available through Ticketmaster. London Irish are exploring inclusive London Irish supporter travel packages which will combine flights, airport transfers, accommodation and access to player meet and greet events.

Travel packages will be available with and without match tickets. Details will be announced on or before Monday November 9. Keep visiting the club’s website for more information and announcements.

Small box out Case study reports that eight years ago, rugby coach Jay Day wanted to form a team in Southern Utah, and just about managed to round up enough players to form a Washington County team.

Eight years on, there are now five conferences with more than 29 high school rugby teams in Utah, with several more schools adding the sport next spring. “The fluidity of the sport has attracted many people to the game,” Bryce Bishop, head coach of the Canyon View Falcons, told the Spectrum.

“There are no timeouts or stoppages of play that makes the sport what it is.” Day, the coach of the Snow Canyon rugby team has seen the Warriors programme that has been developed has seen 160 secondary school children sign up to teams.

More info on the London Irish website


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