Following a Delaware court hearing earlier this week, USA Rugby has been approved to move forward with their post-chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan. If you’ll recall, back on March 31, 2020, at the height of the coronavirus and economic crisis, USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy. A profoundly sobering moment in the history of American rugby, but a necessary move all the same. Much like how a wolf trapped in a snare must gnaw off his own foot, so too must the American governing body of rugby make sacrifices. In the United States, the spring season is a major component for rugby, at the college, club, and more recently the professional levels. The MLR was set to resume this spring, but plans were halted amid the pandemic. I’m not certain, but I believe USA Rugby has a financial stake in the MLR, which undoubtedly weighed on their bottom line this spring. Not to mention the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC), which is arguably the rugby event, college or professional, with the largest draw. The CRC is televised nationally on ESPN and since it’s 7s and not 15s, generally is received more warmly by American fans not as familiar with the sport of rugby.
Pandemic or not, I am of the opinion that the USA Rugby organization was due for a material restructuring. More often than not, USA Rugby gets in the way of their own success. I do think that the work they’ve done with Major League Rugby will ultimately be successful, considering they continue to expand to new cities across the US. I just hope that this whole experience revitalizes the leadership at USA Rugby to try and get “stickier” with the American sports fan, particularly through expanding youth programs (unfortunately, as youth football programs shrink). I think that USA Rugby CEO Ross Young put it best in his press statement this week:
“This is an important step for USA Rugby and the go-forward plans of the game here in the United States. We are extremely pleased with the outcome, most notably as it becomes the catalyst for us to begin the hands-on rebuilding process with the rugby community and recommence long term planning that will benefit all levels of the game.”
I’m optimistic and want to support the game at the highest levels, too.