Interview with rugby agent and founder of nationalrugbypost.com Gregory Tanner, author of The business of Rugby
Entrepreneurs seeking to get into the business of professional rugby need an introduction to the best ways to sieze the business opportunities as professional rugby enters the U.S. market. “The Business of Rugby” provides an inside look at how the game can succeed in America.
Gregory Tanner talks about professional rugby and its potential in the United States and how entrepreneurs, investors and organizations can seize what can be the next Billion dollars sports industry in the United States.
Q: Welcome Greg, and thanks for taking the time to sit down for this interview. Let’s get right into it. Tell me, what’s the state of professional rugby in the U.S. today? We hear about the PRP and Glendale Is that the way to go?
GT: What you see at Infinity Park in Glendale is the model followed by all professional clubs. A small stadium wrapped around weeklong hospitality and services. It’s a venue that lends itself to mass media also and a means to capitalize on spectator attendance.
Q: So why don’t we move rugby into existing stadiums to foster growth?
GT: You can’t. We learned that very quickly with Major League Soccer who almost failed doing that. It’s not a sport where currently you get 20,000 spectators watching eveyweek and that’s in strong rooted places such as France and England. What inevitably will happen is people will see a televised game that looks unpopular – it’s the same when you pass an empty restaurant, nobody wants to go to an empty restaurant.
Q: So you’re a real advocate for building out new stadiums. What about the cost involved? Doesn’t this make it difficult for teams to start?
GT: The stadiums aren’t as costly as the mega NFL stadiums and when done with hospitality and destination entertainment in mind, the opportunity for cities partnered with teams is so great that you have to find a way not to want to build a stadium. You need a stadium venue to attract media. A stadium can be a small part of a city’s plan to stand out as a destination city.
Q: Most Major League sports succeed because of media deals, isn’t a mass media deal the key to success?
GT: Media is just one of the keys to success. If it was only media Jerry Jones would not be lobbying for a new ATT stadium. For rugby the stadium provides a medium for the spectators, hospitality, and the media. Stadiums are the offices for the media it allows for proper production of the sport. Professional production is the key for the sport. You can’t expect ESPN to show up at a park to film a bunch of guys playing on the field, it’s just not the standard that we are used to watching. And you won’t get more than 20,000 fans to a game at the onset unless of course you have England or New Zealand playing.
Q: Is there work to be done to build the popularity of rugby in America? Sounds like there is some work to build the popularity of the sport in the United States.
GT: Surprisingly no. Rugby is everywhere in America, in colleges everywhere and now high schools and earlier. If you ever played just one game you become hooked on the sport. Worldwide the sport’s popularity is influencing our support here. You see so much more enthusiasts watching Super Rugby or European Rugby Championships. It’s not just the internationals now.
Q: So your real bullish on rugby. How big will rugby be in the United States?
GT: It’s already big business. Once the mainstream sees the sport and consuming more frequently this sport will grow as fast as MMA and the UFC has. It just has to be done properly or you will end up like the USAFL or lacrosse. Not that lacrosse is not doing well it’s just stuck as a small niche sport. But look at Major League Soccer they have a $650 Million dollar media deal. They have their own stadiums.