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Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in? 
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Post Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
The Guinness Pro12 looks set for the biggest shake-up since the Italian teams were invited to the party back in 2010 only this time the Italian teams, Zebre and Benetton Treviso, are in danger of being shown the exit door instead.

As we know the Pro12 is keen, desperate even, to open a franchise in North America and it is almost certain that Houston will get the nod for the season after next, 2018-19. While the USA Eagles were rumoured to be interested in running the franchise this venture will be operated by independent investors.

The other venue was to have been Toronto but instead of adding these franchises to the existing 12-team league and running two divisions as previously proposed, elements within the Pro12 threatened to jettison the under-performing Italian teams altogether.

According to one reliable source a senior Pro12 executive wrote a scathing letter to the Italian Federation (FIR) after the Six Nations in which he accused the Italians of bringing almost nothing of commercial value to the Pro12 table in terms of sponsors, TV deal, fans etc etc. Twenty years after professionalism, Italian rugby is stuck in amateur hour. This season Zebre players have not always been paid on time and in full.

The Welsh and Scots are said to want shot of the Italians while the Irish, with one eye on votes for their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, are a little less vocal.

The timing is crucial because Italy is due to become a full member of the Pro12 on 1 July but this is now looking increasingly unlikely. Instead, the Italians would have to pay just to participate. Such terms were bound to be rejected by Italy but that may have been part of the Pro12’s plan because it had two handy substitutes waiting in the wings to replace the Italian teams; Houston and Toronto.

Since then the Pro12 appears to have rowed back somewhat in the face of legal threats from the FIR and a charm offensive by Italy’s Irish coach Conor O’Shea, pictured, who has been involved in shuttle diplomacy. He met World Rugby’s president Bill Beaumont last week when he made a passionate appeal for the game’s governing body to stand behind the Italians in their time of need. O’Shea was in London on Tuesday of this week and attended meetings with the SRU in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning.

The timeline is uncertain but the Pro12 appears to have relented, dropping Toronto, at least for the time being, to make way for a new Italian franchise based in Rome – and never mind that a suitable stadium is hard to come by. The FIR could purchase the lease on the Stadio Flaminio, where Italy used to play Six Nations games, but the old ground would need so much money spent on upgrades that it may not be commercially viable and the clock is ticking.

Fifteen months may sound a lot but it is the blink of an eye when you are attempting to start a sports franchise from scratch.

One senior Italian source argued forcibly that Italy needs two professional teams to have any chance of competing in the Six Nations, and so they do, but perhaps the long-term goal is to replace Italy with the USA Eagles in the Six Nations.

Incidentally Italy is reeling from one body blow just as they brace themselves for another. This coming week a meeting of the board of European Professional Club Rugby is expected to remove the ruling that specifies one team from every nation must compete in the Champions Cup, one of the key commitments when the new tournament was rolled out three seasons ago.

It’s not clear which way the Scots will vote on the issue but only six years ago both Edinburgh (8th) and Glasgow (11th) finished outside the top six automatic qualification spots.

All of which leaves the Pro12 and the FIR at loggerheads. The latter’s demand for two franchises has little behind it other than pleas to “do the right thing” which are falling on deaf ears.

Nothing is set in stone although Houston looks like a done deal and a side in Rome is probable, presuming the FIR come around to the idea that one franchise is better than none at all.

Welcome to the impact zone where commercial concerns run headlong into rugby’s traditional values of aiding the game’s stragglers. Only one winner there, you might think.

Fingers crossed that Scotland don’t find themselves in a similar painful position some way down the line.

http://www.scotsman.com/sport/rugby-uni ... -1-4438994


Sat May 06, 2017 10:59 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
The only debatable point there is the location of the second North American team. Try looking where the other 'Eagles' are located in the States!


Sat May 06, 2017 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
Interesting and ironic that the Welsh and Scots are more vocal in their opposition to the Italian presence in the Pro 12 than the Irish are, given how this season the Dragons have ended up sandwiched between the two Italian teams with Edinburgh not much better. Put simply, once the Italians are taken out, who else is going to act as try fodder and (most of the time) guaranteed wins? As they say, be careful what you wish for...


Sat May 06, 2017 11:38 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
Mixed views on this. Yes, the Italians need a leg up, but surely it would be far more logical for them to join up with the French league. And how in hell will an American team work, in a league based three thousand miles away? I can only assume they'll be adding pots of money to the Pro12 , as there's no other justification for their inclusion.

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Sun May 07, 2017 9:46 am
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
Scarletrover wrote:
The only debatable point there is the location of the second North American team. Try looking where the other 'Eagles' are located in the States!


Philadelphia would make better sense than Houston which was the suggested base when last this story surfaced. Good Irish support base on the East Coast.

Houston seems to be now earmarked for the Major League Rugby.

americasrugbynews
Quote:
Nine teams confirmed for Major League Rugby 2018
Americas Rugby News May 5, 2017 USA 13 Comments 1,448 Views

The first official press release from Major League Rugby has arrived a few weeks earlier than expected. In it is confirmation that nine cities will take part in the inaugural season, with one deviation from the original list reported in February. The rumor of a team in Minneapolis has been confirmed though not explicitly connected to Metropolis Rugby Club. Now missing from the group is Chicago, with the proposed association with the Lions now seemingly pushed to 2019, though a ‘final team and venue list’ is due to be released later this year suggesting that more teams may yet be added for 2018.

Also of interest is that the release was delivered from Salt Lake City, where new league commissioner Dean Howes is based. Howes is a former partner and vice-chairman of SCP Worldwide, a private equity firm that specialized in consulting and investment in “undervalued franchises, venues, and media properties.” SCP were the original owners of Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake, and majority owners of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues from 2006-2011. In 2016 Howes was appointed Senior Strategic Advisor to the Rugby Utah executive leadership team.

While no official timetable has been given for its inaugural kickoff, it is understood that the league is targeting a spring opening to the season. More information on salaries, league structure, broadcasting, etc. will be confirmed ‘in the coming months.’ The press release in its entirety can be read below:

—–

Salt Lake City UT: Beginning in 2018, Major League Rugby (MLR) will launch as a new professional rugby competition in North America. MLR will be the premier rugby competition in the United States. By drawing on the best domestic talent MLR will create an intense, fast paced competition and a top-tier media product. MLR will introduce rugby to the American sports mainstream, provide a focal point for millions of existing fans and bring even more new supporters to the game.

MLR will launch with members in: Glendale, CO; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; and Salt Lake City, UT. MLR will announce a final team and venue list, player contract information, and 2018 schedule, in the coming months. Beyond 2018, MLR will expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues.

Developing the game of rugby is at the core of the MLR model. MLR will create local destinations where rugby fans and families can come together to celebrate the highest levels of the American game. MLR stadia will be gathering places for rugby fans and local communities to gather around the game. By connecting the national to the local, MLR will invite America to join the unique, vibrant rugby family and discover its core values: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.

MLR will reinvigorate the American rugby development pathway. By creating outreach programs to bring new players to the game and high-performance pathways to keep the best athletes in the sport, MLR will create the competitive environment to push the American game to the next level.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and one of the most popular sports in the world, as evidenced by the strong reception it received at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Rugby’s rising domestic growth and wide-reaching global fan base combine to create a unique environment for a professional league to succeed in the American market. While hundreds of local clubs have helped the sport to take hold in the U.S. during the past decade, Major League Rugby is poised to unite these fans under a common banner as rugby enters the American sports mainstream.

About MLR: MLR is an initiative driven by existing USA Rugby-member teams, in partnership with private investors, who believe that American rugby can thrive at the highest levels: as a commercial enterprise; as an influential player on the international scene; and as a participation sport at the youth and senior level.


Sun May 07, 2017 10:57 am
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
Total nonsense and desperation to want the Yanks in the Pro 12! As if they will bring anything to the table! The only justification would be money but just based on the premise there are 300mn people there does not mean the sport can bring meaningful money to the table or gain interest in that market. Its the same with the drive to include South African teams. I love rugby but have zero interest in a club competition bringing teams from the other side of the world with no link/history. It would be a total snore bore! You need local rivalries to ignite a domestic competition. This is partly why the Italian clubs have not worked out and why the Celtic League itself has not caught the imagination, so far!

We should focus on the existing competition and on creating a more attractive brand of rugby. All this focus on off the wall solutions is absolutely distracting/pathetic. Focus on making the existing product better. If you can't achieve that then the only possible solution would be to convince the English clubs to agree a UK and Irish league with 2 divisions. Now that would be attractive!


Sun May 07, 2017 10:54 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
We played the Southern CA championship final yesterday and there were less than 150 there..

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Sun May 07, 2017 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
Langland Exile wrote:
We played the Southern CA championship final yesterday and there were less than 150 there..


Some Mumbles matches manage to get that sort of attendance. xD

Anyway, considering how bad the Italian teams are, then go figure how bad American teams would be - believe it or not, Italy is still a somewhat stronger rugby nation than is the USA.


Mon May 08, 2017 1:37 am
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
najbritcol wrote:
Langland Exile wrote:
We played the Southern CA championship final yesterday and there were less than 150 there..


Some Mumbles matches manage to get that sort of attendance. xD

Anyway, considering how bad the Italian teams are, then go figure how bad American teams would be - believe it or not, Italy is still a somewhat stronger rugby nation than is the USA.


Rugby at the Senior Club level has gone backwards in the 30+ years I have lived here, but the Schools and Colleges have improved markedly.

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Mon May 08, 2017 2:10 am
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
dhook wrote:
Total nonsense and desperation to want the Yanks in the Pro 12! As if they will bring anything to the table! The only justification would be money but just based on the premise there are 300mn people there does not mean the sport can bring meaningful money to the table or gain interest in that market. Its the same with the drive to include South African teams. I love rugby but have zero interest in a club competition bringing teams from the other side of the world with no link/history. It would be a total snore bore! You need local rivalries to ignite a domestic competition. This is partly why the Italian clubs have not worked out and why the Celtic League itself has not caught the imagination, so far!

We should focus on the existing competition and on creating a more attractive brand of rugby. All this focus on off the wall solutions is absolutely distracting/pathetic. Focus on making the existing product better. If you can't achieve that then the only possible solution would be to convince the English clubs to agree a UK and Irish league with 2 divisions. Now that would be attractive!


The standard of the teams doesn't matter, it's the money from TV deals and sponsorship that is key.


Sat May 13, 2017 11:57 pm
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Post Re: Italians out, Yanks & Canucks in?
never heard of any scots wanting rid of the italians


Tue May 23, 2017 3:01 pm
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