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(Washington, DC) – With the successful launch of the inaugural season of Major League Rugby (MLR) this past April, fans in the national capital region can begin dreaming of a professional rugby team of their own.
Two local business leaders with rugby in their blood -- Paul Sheehy and Chris Dunlavey -- have secured exclusive rights for a DC-based MLR team. With the appropriate level of community and corporate support, the team plans to enter league competition no later than 2020 and possibly begin playing games within the next 12 months. MLR, the new, U.S.-based professional rugby union competition, currently has seven teams competing in an abbreviated 8-game opening season. The DC-based team will be one of only two teams operating east of New Orleans, as a New York team has been formed and is already committed to playing in the 2019 season. The DC MLR group is working to finalize the location of the team’s home games.
“We’re extremely excited at the prospect of bringing professional rugby to DC,” said Dunlavey, Chairman of the DC MLR effort. “Our experience, our network, our intuition and our market research all tell us the same thing: there is a big appetite for rugby in the DC region, with more than 190 active clubs featuring over 7,500 players. That’s a lot of potential supporters for this team. If professional rugby can work anywhere in the U.S., it can work in DC.”
Said Sheehy, “I am happy to be part of the team bringing professional rugby to Washington, DC. This is going to be an exciting time in The Nation’s Capital, the 2nd largest rugby market in the United States. The fans will love the game.”
MLR has an exclusive multi-year national television partnership with CBS Sports Network, and ESPN has also announced an exclusive distribution agreement for the inaugural season to showcase America’s fastest-growing team sport.
“We think Washington, DC will be an exciting and growing market for us,” said Major League Rugby Commissioner Dean Howes. “With New York already committed and now DC coming on board, we can envision a robust rivalry blossoming between those two clubs. As important, having these professional teams in major east coast cities shows all of the young players in this part of the country that there is a future for them in our sport.”
The DC MLR organization hopes to get a boost in interest in rugby and, potentially, season ticket deposits, when RFK Stadium plays host to a Wales-South Africa match on June 2nd. Over 12,000 tickets have already been sold for that match.
“We expect the Wales-South Africa match will help us get the word out in the rugby and local community and start to generate momentum for MLR,” Dunlavey added. “We are planning a lot of activities around that match to get people excited. We’re even thinking about giving the fans the opportunity to help us name our team.”
MAJOR LEAGUE RUGBY
Similar to Major League Soccer, MLR is organized on a single-entity LLC model, with the league holding all of the player contracts. The individual team owners operate the local team and have responsibility for all activities around it, including hosting games, broadcasting regionally, and operating an academy system to promote the sport at the youth and high school levels and develop local talent.
About Chris Dunlavey
DC MLR Chairman Chris Dunlavey is President and co-founder of District-based Brailsford & Dunlavey, one of the nation’s top 50 program management firms, which focuses on large scale institutional facility development such as sports venues, higher education campuses, and schools. He is also a founder and owner of Centers, LLC, the nation’s first management company for outsourced collegiate campus recreation services. Since the late 1980s, Dunlavey has played rugby with the Washington Irish Rugby Football Club, and continues to do so today.
About Paul Sheehy
Paul Sheehy is an Owner and Director of Used Operations for Sheehy Auto Stores, a local family-owned business with 23 locations within the Mid-Atlantic. They have served the Washington, DC area for over 50 years and retail 45,000 new and used vehicles annually. He played rugby for the Washington Rugby Club and the United States National Team. He represented the US in the 1991 Rugby World Cup held in England. Sheehy is a proud father of rugby athletes and coached at his alma mater, Gonzaga College High School, and the DMV United 7s team. He is also a big supporter of the local rugby scene, sponsoring teams such as Washington Youth Rugby, Maryland Exiles Youth Rugby, University of Mary Washington, Scion Rugby Academy, and the Potomac Referees Society.