Todd Greenberg, chief executive of Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), has revealed that regular-season matches could be played in the US as early as next year amid plans to further grow the profile of rugby league in the country.
The NRL is currently planning its schedule for the 2019 Premiership season and the organisation is keen to take matches overseas, with the US considered a leading candidate.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, there had been initial plans to play a match in the US this year, although logistical challenges mean a 2019 date is now more likely.
The US is due to co-host the Rugby League World Cup with Canada in 2025, and earlier this week it was announced that Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver will host an international match between England and New Zealand.
The game, which will take place on June 23, is set to serve as a test bed for the country’s hosting capabilities and Greenberg has suggested that the next step for the US would be hosting regular-season NRL matches.
“We're in discussions about that now,” Greenberg told the Herald. “It’s a big landing process on a number of fronts. You need to work with the broadcasters, you've also got to work through travel, recovery. But it's certainly on our radar.
“The destinations in North America are available in a good broadcast timeslot, so that's what we're looking at. The ball is in our court in regards to scheduling and player workload. We're actively working on that now for 2019 and 2020. Next year we could have teams playing for points in America.”
Greenberg added: “Effectively we ran out of time last year. Hopefully, with more time, we can make that happen.
“I would say this – and the clubs would concur – what the clubs are looking for and why they are finding this hard to deal with – and why we won’t come out and announce a single game – is that they are looking for a broader plan.
“They’re looking for the strategy of what international football looks like and, for us, how do we plug into that, helping with some domestic games from our competition. I think a broader plan is what people are looking for. If we’re going to grow the game, what does that look like … over a longer period of time.”