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Friday, November 2, 2007

The Business of Rugby

First, read Blondie's post about the plight of the USA Eagles Women. You can then click here to donate for their tour.

But this brings up the subject of the business of rugby in the U.S. The question, really, is why can't we do better? We have thousands of rugby clubs, at all levels from youth to old boys, tens of thousands (at least) of rugby players and fans, and some of the best athletes in the world. Rugby is an inherently exciting game. And is a true sport, just watch a game and the fans. So why can't the U.S. make rugby more successful and field a team that can compete at the top level of the sport?

There are a lot of good people at USA Rugby and the IRB (International Rugby Board), but we're not where we could be. Did you know that the U.S. is the current Olympic Rugby Champions? Of course the last time rugby was played in the Olypmics was 1924, but what happened? Maybe we're going about it the wrong way, I don't really know. I'm just thinking out loud here. But one of the first things that needs to happen is education. We'd have far more fans if more people actually knew what was going on out there on the pitch. Hey, that's one thing, the terminology. Joe Public would call it a field while many of the rugby crowd would call it a pitch. We need to educate the general public about the terminology and the basics of the game. On the surface, and from the stands, rugby is a pretty simple game. A good marketing effort would first focus on just getting people to understand the basics.

Then there's the money aspect. To make money you need fans, sponsors, people who aren't necissarily fans but who are interested, and business people who know how to make money. To generate more interest local games need to be reported on in the local press, regional games and tournaments need to be reported on in local, regional, and national press, and national and international games need to be reported on in the press and televised. The press are generally for-profit companies that need to make money. They make money from advertisors who pay based on circulation and readership, or viewership. If a buzz is generated by quality reporting, people will buy the paper or watch the news that has that report. That will attract advertisors, and the money starts to flow. The reporting has to include an element of education, to attract those readers and viewers who don't have a depth of knowledge of the game. Talk to your local news organizations and volunteer to help report on rugby in your area or be the expert about the game for their reporters. Create a buzz.

To make money off of rugby, with the idea that we can make it a professional sport here in the U.S., use the same basic business concpets you'd use for any other business. What are the sources of revenue associated with rugby? Ticket sales, obviously, but also concessions. Beer, of course, but food, water, and soft drinks. What else? Set up booths for all sorts of things that rugby players and fans would like. Selling rugby gear is an easy one, but what about face painting for the keiki (that's kids in Hawaii), cell phone vendors, coffee, outdoor clothing? I bet there are tons of things you could think of that aren't necessarily directly related to rugby but would compliment it nicely to increase revenue and make rugby matches (games, for the uninitiated) a profitable venture. Since this is, or would be, something new here, let's think differently than they do in the countries where rugby has a long history.

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