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Major League Lacrosse switches to single-entity model

Major League Lacrosse has decided to switch from a franchise model to a single-entity structure.

Starting with the 2020 season, MLL will own and operate all six teams: Atlanta Blaze, Boston Cannons, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Dallas Rattlers, Denver Outlaws, and New York Lizards.

The move, not yet official, was revealed by Bayhawks owner Brendan Kelly. “Major League Lacrosse voted to go with a single-entity league with no franchises and that is not something I want to be involved with,” Kelly told The Annapolis Capital Gazette. “That model turns me into an investor and board member as opposed to an owner and that is just not in my competitive nature.”

A number of MLL players have moved to the start-up Premier Lacrosse League, which has gained significant media attention and commercial relevance since debuting in 2019. In response, the MLL closed three teams – the Charlotte Hounds, Florida Launch and Ohio Machine – and reacquired all of its media rights prior to the 2019 season. Now it has has now moved to a single entity structure to try to maintain its position in the US sporting landscape.

“I think it’s the right move for the league at this time. With a single entity league, everything is carefully nurtured,” Kelly said. “It’s not a good long-term model, but brings short-term stability.”

World Lacrosse chief executive Jim Scherr is unsure if the MLL and PLL can co-exist in the long term.

“In most cases, competition is good and we think it will help push both leagues to become better. But at the end of the day, there are always questions in lacrosse whether the sport is big enough for two competing leagues,” Sherr told SportBusiness in December. “We’ve seen in American football that the NFL and the USFL and XFL haven’t been able to co-exist. So in lacrosse, which is a much smaller sport, it’s going to be very difficult. We support both leagues and the players in both league and we’d like to see them both succeed. We just want to make sure how it proceeds is good for the sport.”