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News has broken recently of the Guinness Pro 12 considering an American franchise. This isn’t a new idea, but the fact that the CEO of the Irish Rugby Football Union is talking about it, as is outgoing USA Rugby Board chairman Bob Latham, lends more weight to the possibility.
Here’s a story from the Welsh media on why the move might make sense for the Pro 12, despite the obvious logistical hurdles. Basically, it boils down to the fact that the Celtic league needs to do something drastic to keep up with the English and French leagues, who have television contracts several times larger than the Pro 12, if they want to be able to compete for players.
Similarly, a potential Super Rugby franchise in the USA has long been bandied about, too, and those discussions are ongoing. Though nothing has come about yet, that possibility is not dead.
Additionally, the Premiership is trying to crack the American market. There was the Saracens vs. London Irish game in New Jersey in March, which drew a pretty good crowd of 14,000 or so, and there are rumblings that more matches could be brought Stateside. And there was the announcement that NBC Sports Network will carry a game of the week every round of the Premiership and host a whole bunch more online. The deal between NBC and the Premiership is for three years, with an additional two-year option.
There is also talk of the Aviva Premiership loosening its rules on foreign players to allow for more Americans. This makes sense, right? If you want to engage the American television market, give them more incentive to watch.
Will any of these possibilities come to roost? That remains to be seen, but all would presumably be positive developments for the depth of the Eagles player pool and the exposure and growth of rugby as a whole.