The Runner Sports

Professional Rugby Organization’s Reaction To Major League Rugby’s Press Release: An Interview With Doug Schoninger

In a brief interview with PRO CEO Doug Schoninger, I asked about his reaction to the media release by Major League Rugby to begin play in spring 2018, he commented: “I saw it but not much detail.” I asked the ever circling question of plans for PRO season two.

“Absolutely,” he said. “As we have done in the past we announce when all the details are in place. We don’t believe in misleading our fans like some other leagues might do. Again we are planning our second season and will protect our assets and rights as necessary.”

I asked for details, any details to provide some form of faith in the PRO fan base that remains.

“All I can say at this time is,” he explained, “that we are planning a bigger league with budgets of three to four times of our first season.”

I asked about the much-rumored acquisition of the Super Rugby club the Southern Kings and if this had anything to do with those plans.

“There are many pieces of the puzzle,” he told me, “which is why it is taking a long time.” He continued with a reminder of PRO’s goals, “Remember, our goal is to grow rugby and bring in new fans and not just play (to) the existing community of fans which is way too small to support a league.”

So the first big question I have is the impact on the MLR if PRO actually puts something together resembling a competition and what that might look like at this point is any ones guess. The exclusivity clause in the contract covers a domestic competition, would MLR be considered a domestic competition if a Canadian club entered the mix? I believe that’s a loop hole that would identify the MLR as an international competition and is likely being pursued in regard to the mysterious 10th club to be named later. We all know how specific legal matters need to be and I believe the argument can be held up that if a Canadian side is included then the MLR is technically outside of the domestic competition umbrella and can be sanctioned by USA Rugby.

If a Canadian club does not sign on then what? At that point it is likely the MLR, as a professional organization, would operate independently of USA Rugby just as the NHL operates outside of USA Hockey; it would require MLR to provide benefits to players just like any other corporation, as do the other professional organizations in the United States.

My second big question is what kind of competition could PRO provide? Schoninger stated more teams and with a bigger budget. How, where, and what form is it taking? Too many questions are being unanswered for me to believe it is anything but a stalling tactic. Nothing substantial is being released, everything smells of smoke and looks like mirrors.

It’s frustrating, I supported PRO and would still support PRO even if it became the USFL of rugby because I love the sport. Period. It would be unfair to the players, coaches, and staff who bleed for the sport playing in PRO for me not to support it. It would be very un-rugby like, as our community is inclusive to all. I just don’t see how it’s going to happen and I certainly don’t see why information isn’t being released unless there just isn’t anything to say.

The reaction to my short interview is exactly what I expected: it’s going to happen, things are in motion, don’t give up. Well, I just wanted for all of us to be wrong

Sorry, Doug but time is running out.


-By Jason Graves