EXCLUSIVE - US League set for lift off
Friday 8th January 2010
By STEVE MASCORD in Boston
Eight top overseas coaches and up 45 imported players will be ready to move to the United States this June if the proposed professional competition kicks off, American rugby league boss David Niu says.
Niu has broken his silence over planning for the most talked-about league venture in more than a decade, exclusively telling rugbyleague.com about finances, television and recruitment as he prepares to make an announcement this month on a launch date.
Niu did not want to comment on the structure of the league but it’s understood eight teams named after broad regions of the US will play on a “carnival” basis, with all matches in each round played at the same venue on the same day over six weeks.
He said secret negotations meant overseas talent was already on call for the kick-off.
“We have always been very clear on the fact that we want the best possible coaches,” Niu said. "Maybe not head coaches from Australia and Europe, but people who have held those positions in the past or are certain to in the future.
"Each team will have a franchise player. That is someone who has achieved something overseas and can add something for our franchises, that the other players can learn from.
"We are not going to go and recruit Jarryd Hayne or Sam Burgess. But everyone knows of players who just need an opportunity, who are not in the mainstream at the moment for one reason or another at the moment - be it injuries or whatever.
“Each team will need, maybe, five or six players with overseas experience.”
Niu said while flying and accomodating so many people at short notice for a June kick-off looked like a formidable task, the process was already in place.
“We have been having talks for some time,” Niu said. "I am happy to say that we we have coaches lined up, as long as I don’t have to say who they are.
“The same goes for the players. It can all be done. We will be quite open and transparent: by the end of this month we give everyone a lanch date - be it this year or next.”
Niu said a public broadcasting network had offered to beam the new comp which would cost between $10 million and $15 million to run - into 50 million US homes. He said no decision had been made on the offer. He admitted that confusion with playing numbers in rugby union had affected talks with NBC but denied trying to deceive the network.
It was reported the US Rugby Union complained to NBC when it found out Niu had included union playing numbers in his proposal.
“In order to even have any real talks with these people, they at first say ‘let’s talk about rugby’,” he said.
"We talked about how many people play rugby of both codes in the US but I made it clear to them ‘if you do research around the world the sport which is most likely to come across first is rugby union.
"I made that very clear. Now if someone wants to come in and say ‘well, you should be showing that game instead’, if the rugby union people hurt our talks, I can’t say for sure.
“But there is some truth in that story.”
Niu said as far as he was concerned there was “no debate” about when the season should run: “late summer, early spring which avoids the NFL, even if it overlaps with the seasons in Australia and Europe.”
He said he had many investors who had requested their identities remain secret and added rule variations would include four-quarters and a return to the Super League regulation which requires the scoring team to kick off.
Games would be played on pitches fitted with American Football goalposts and the first season would act as trial for each of host cities to ascertain which should have teams in the years ahead, he added.
I really think they need to drop the rugby part of the name when trying to sell it places like the US. Yawnion is an albatross around the neck of league - anyone who has seen a union game just thinks league will be a snoozefest of kicks and scrums. Just call it league or even (and god help me for uttering this) super league. Our game is such a fantastic product that if we can get people watching it, it stands a good chance of making inroads.
International stars in US RL launch
Wednesday 3rd February 2010
By STEVE MASCORD
Stacey Jones and Daniel Wagon will be among the stars invited to the official launch of professional rugby league in the United States on Independence Day weekend this July, it has been announced.
AMNRL chief executive David Niu has revealed to rugbyleague.com that while a full-scale pro league will not start until 2011, July 4 will see a high profile lauch of the concept in conjunction with a US Tomahawks international.
“We probably won’t see the week-to-week league start up until early next year but we will definitely have events which will ensure professional rugby league is launched this year,” Niu said.
"We’ll have a Tomahawks international and other events over a weekend which will introduce the public to our organisation and announce our intentions to everyone.
“The date we are looking at is the fourth of July.”
No city has yet been decided upon for the gala launch. Niu said many of the players and coaches who had been lined up for the new competition would be invited to the US. He had already named former Golden Boot winner Jones as one recruit.
“Some of the other players would not like me using their names but (former Australia international) Daniel Wagon is another, he is happy to be named,” Niu said.
“These are people whose commitments elsewhere are finished and are available to come. It will be their initiation to what we are doing.”
Niu did not want to discuss what role the players would take, what the “other events” consisted of or who the US would play in the international. “I don’t want to give too much away,” he told rugbyleague.com.
Niu had hoped to launch an eight team competition, played over six weeks and featuring up to 40 overseas players, in late May. Each round of matches was to be played at the same stadium over the same weekend, moving from city to city. That will now happen in early 2011, he said.
“I know for a fact we have a model that is sustainable and which will have an enormous benefit for rugby league worldwide,” he said.
All they want to do in the first year is to showcase the game in the cities where they plan to have teams. This setup would have a much better chance of attracting crowds and limit the costs. Of course, the problem is that people would only see 1 day then need to wait another year for the next game.
The following year they would move to a more standard home and away series.