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Last month, witnessed the debut of the Premiere Lacrosse League (P.L.L.), a player-based initiative that seeks to become the dominant organization in the sport. Led by star Paul Rabil, former four-time All-American from Johns Hopkins, and frequent professional MVP, the new entity marks a radical departure in concept from previous lacrosse or rugby start up leagues.
At the outset, the new league will feature a touring model, not a city-based group of clubs similar to Major League Rugby. Secondly, the goal is for the P.L.L. to offer year-round employment for players, including salary and health insurance. Importantly, players will receive an equity stake.
Already, the new organization has succeeded in signing 115 former college All-Americans, many who quit the existing Major League Lacrosse (M.L.L.) for a chance to increase annual income. One new project is for each player to mount his own social media page, in effect, to brand himself, an idea which Rabil pioneered, achieving 700,000 followers across all platforms.
The touring operation - similar to golf and tennis - will send six teams to 12 cities, playing three games during the coming summer weekends. In the first weekend of play, P.L.L. attracted 11,000 fans, and then, later in Baltimore, a passionate lacrosse city, it rose to, and peaked at 16,000.
Rabil's group signed a multiyear contract with NBC Sports, with the network paying for production. This past weekend, the P.L.L. match in Red Bull Stadium, New Jersey, attracted 400,000 television viewers.
The P.L.L. inaugural season will end on September 21 in Philadelphia when a champion will be crowned. At that game, Rabil will present the Jim Brown MVP award, named after the Syracuse University lacrosse (and gridiron) legend.
The M.L.L. has folded three franchises, leaving the two competitive leagues with six teams each.
It's a cliché, but time will tell whether P.L.L. is a sports model idea whose time has come.