Crusaders purchase stake in US pro rugby franchise
The Canterbury Rugby Union has purchased a minority stake in US professional rugby team Seattle Seawolves. The Seattle franchise will compete in the newly formed Major League Rugby, a North American professional rugby competition in April.
The Canterbury Union is also a majority shareholder in the Crusaders franchise, the most successful rugby club in the Southern Hemisphere with eight championships since inception in 1996.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the winning tradition of the Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby joining our ownership team,” said Seawolves co-owner Shane Skinner.
“They are world class sports organizations and this partnership underscores the potential of professional rugby in America.
“The sport of rugby is a growing force in this community and around the world”, said Ralph Morton, Executive Director of the Seattle Sports Commission. “I believe that Seattle should be in the forefront of rugby’s expansion, supporting the development of youth programs, professional teams and hosting some of the highest profile matches in the world.”
The Crusaders have expressed a desire to help the Seawolves with the expertise they possess.
“As a professional rugby club we are delighted to have the opportunity to take a small stake in the Seawolves, with our goal being to assist them with their entry into professional rugby in the US,” Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach said.
“As the oldest rugby organisation in New Zealand we are excited to have secured a small stake in the future of professional rugby in the US,” Canterbury Rugby chief executive Nathan Godfrey said.
“We look forward to sharing our expertise of developing some of the world’s best rugby players with the Seawolves.”
“We look forward to helping where we can and supporting them in their exciting journey to be a successful professional team and club.”
The investment could be richly rewarded if the game continues to grow in the world’s largest professional sports market. The most prominent sports league in America is the NFL, which dominates Forbes annual list of the most valuable sports teams with 29 out of 32 franchises in the top 50, all valued over $1.5 billion dollars.
The MLS was founded in 1993 and continues its growth today, with the top five teams worth between $272 to $315 million according to Forbes.
If the MRL gets off the ground and becomes sustainable the move could end up a very smart move by Canterbury.
The Seawolves will have their first MRL game on April 22 against San Diego Legion in Tukwila.
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