As the HSBC World Series Wellington 7s prepares to kick off the anticipation of the speed, the agility, and the hits are palpable, I can almost taste it. That’s why I’m excited to hear Grand Prix Network plans on bringing the high speed thrillfest that is Sevens rugby to the United States in the form of Grand Prix Rugby Football league (RFL).
I had the opportunity to ask Grand Prix Chairman and CEO William Tatham a few questions about the RFL and its planned 2018 launch.
Rugby Nation USA (RN): Is the RFL still on course for the Million Dollar Match in Las Vegas in 2018?
William Tatham (WT): Yes. Absolutely. The GRAND PRIX “CHAMPION SEVENS” will kick off America’s first truly world class professional rugby league.
RN: What’s the plan beyond the Grand Prix “Champion Sevens?”
WT: Expand the RFL “Champion Sevens” Tour into New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.
RN: Is the vision for the competition a series of traveling tournaments each week like HSBC World Series?
WT: Yes. Exactly. In fact our mission is to build the Grand Prix RFL League by working with our exclusively sanctioned partner USAR and effectively professionalizing the domestic and globally popular HSBC Series.
RN: How many teams do you envision to be sustainable at first while providing enough competition to be entertaining?
WT: That’s the difference. Unlike old model leagues, the RFL will smartly grow the Tour and RFL franchise teams that play in the Tour, within the Champion Sevens Tour, which will showcase the best World Rugby Union teams.
RN: You mentioned the best World Rugby Union Teams, how will you decide which teams will compete?
WT: USAR and GPR will agree, select and invite World Rugby Unions based on 3 parameters in this order of importance: world rugby ranking, global market size, and entertainment value.
But at all times the primary overriding requirement is that every Grand Prix Phase One “Champion Sevens” event represent the richest and greatest Sevens championship in history. The American way.
RN: What if the US isn’t considered among the best?
WT: The US national team qualifies on all 3 parameters. And trust me on this, by adding millions of incentives, elite American football players will join the fight and America will soon dominate. No more just a “good show boys.” America and USAR will take its rightful place at the top and never let go. Grand Prix is committed to “MAKING AMERICA RUGBY GREAT AGAIN!!!”
RN: What are you looking for in potential investors?
WT: Just like Grand Prix’s rights and model. Smart. Strategic. Sound.
RN: Why should someone invest in Grand Prix Rugby?
WT: If they want a major league / major sport franchise in a new league that can prosper and survive? They are fools not to.
RN: Your promotion video mentions teams in LA, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York; are these cities confirmed?
RN: What other cities are you looking to put franchises in?
WT: The RFL is a made for TV ratings league. We will ONLY target the top 16 media markets.
RN: Are there population requirements or are you interested in smaller cities with strong rugby ties like Cary, NC?
WT: Absolutely. Rugby ties are not critical.
RN: Are you open to franchise opportunities outside the continental US?
RN: Are you considering Bermuda and Hawaii? Both hotbeds of 7s rugby.
WT: Hawaii, yes. Bermuda, no.
RN: Are there plans to expand into 15’s?
WT: Not today.
RN: How do you feel about other competitions attempting to professionalize rugby in the US?
WT: Good luck. Unsanctioned. Old models. If they launch I hope they succeed as it only increases the value of our exclusively sanctioned rights / new model RFL.
RN: Sevens is a very exciting code of rugby, what can fans expect from the RFL?
WT: Big time Sevens. Big time sports. Big time excitement.
RN: Are you in partnership with HSBC and/or World Rugby?
WT: First, “HSBC” is in fact wholly owned by World Rugby. Second, we are exclusively sanctioned partners of USOC and World Rugby member USA Rugby. Third, that is as good as it could ever get and my personal mantra and commitment is this: Whats good for USAR is good for GPR, and what’s good for GPR is good for USAR.
RN: How will the RFL be broadcast?
WT: Domestic and Globally via broadcast networks. Plus uncut uncensored Pay Per View globally to 147 markets. Another reason why the RFL IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S SPORT OR LEAGUE.
RN: Anything else you want readers to know about regarding the RFL and Grand Prix Rugby?
WT: Jump on board while you can. Once this Founder Train leaves the station you won’t touch a RFL Franchise for ten times the price.
Mr. Tatham talks of investment opportunities, while I’m not here to promote Grand Prix I am here to report the entire story and am trying to be an optimist.
I have hope for Grand Prix RFL, if you are an interested investor and want to get in while the price is right please contact Whitecap Sports Group Associate Kyle Davis at Kyled@whitecapsports.com.
Ok, so who is Whitecap Sports Group? They’re an experienced sports merger and acquisition firm whose associates have worked a variety of assignments tied to 23 professional sports leagues from Major League Baseball to the Champions Indoor Football.
I must admit too being more than a bit excited about the prospect of a professional Sevens tour in the US. Just picture the insanity of the Hong Kong Sevens mixed with a college football atmosphere, sounds like fun. I’m also encouraged by their crawl, walk, run approach and focus on Sevens versus trying to include 15’s as well. But…
We’ve heard it all before; Super League, NRFL and PRO, will Grand Prix RFL be different or just more promises left unfulfilled? Only time will tell if there will be anything beyond the “Champion Sevens” Million Dollar Match in 2018. I think the link with Whitecap Sports Group is certainly a positive step in the right direction.
Here’s to hoping.