James Kennedy, the majority owner of Rugby United New York, is actively engaged in discussions to stage an official Major League Rugby game overseas.
At this initial stage, details remain confidential regarding who the opponents would be or where the games would be played. But Kennedy said he is pursuing this initiative to grow his club’s brand internationally. He is hopeful the overseas game – or possibly multiple games – will take place in 2020.
Rugby United New York has already taken steps to expand its brand overseas by signing French international player Mathieu Bastareaud, who will join the team next season.
“We’re in conversations with three possible countries/territories and I really hope it happens. We’re working very hard on it,” Kennedy told SportBusiness. “Conversations are going on, they are very active with sponsors and possible venues and teams as we want the support of those teams in those markets.
“I would ideally play two games, one in one country and another in another country, to engage fans. The attractiveness, I think, is the exposure for those locations to the US. Maybe in the future there could be a return fixture, such as Munster v Ulster in a Guinness Pro14 game [in the US], as a precursor to a MLR game in a double-header.”
Official overseas rugby union club games are not new: London Irish faced Saracens in an English Premiership game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, in March 2016, while a year later Saracens took on Newcastle at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.
Rugby United New York has just completed its first season in MLR, the league’s second campaign.