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Major League Rugby cancels 2020 season, creates esports tournament

(Major League Rugby)

Major League Rugby has announced it has cancelled the remainder of the 2020 season due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The start-up domestic rugby union competition was just five weeks into its third season, with George Killebrew as its new commissioner. MLR had suspended its season for 30 days earlier this month.

“On behalf of MLR and all of our teams, I am saddened to announce that the remainder of the 2020 season is cancelled. We believe it is ultimately the correct decision as we factored in health and safety risks for all parties,” Killebrew said in a statement. “I want to ensure our fans that there is no doubt MLR will be back in 2021 and will emerge bigger and better than ever before. We will be using this time as an opportunity to grow all aspects of MLR and we’re excited to continue this journey into 2021, and for many years to come.”

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In its place, MLR has created its own esports competition, MLR 2020: Virtual. MLR teams will compete against each other on online game Rugby20, with the competition live-streamed to fans on Twitch.

“We’re also excited that this virtual gaming format means we get to continue the competition among our teams in a way that engages our fan base more than ever before,” Killebrew added.

Such a pivot to esports is already underway elsewhere in the industry, and is likely to grow further, as the public health crisis continues. US stock car racing series Nascar and online racing simulation company iRacing have developed the eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition esports competition featuring many of the sport’s most talented and popular drivers.