In a first for any national, Tier One rugby body, the Scottish Rugby Union has formed an affiliation with Old Glory DC in MLR (Major League Rugby). It will establish a footprint for Scotland with the ‘expansion franchise’ in a market that should see continued growth in 2020, and onward.
Announced via a media release from both the Scottish Rugby Union and Old Glory DC Rugby, stating that ‘a relationship has been formed between Old Glory DC and the Scottish Rugby Union. Scottish Rugby is the first Tier One national governing body in rugby to link with a club in the newly sanctioned Major League Rugby competition in the United States’.
Scottish Rugby has taken a minority stake in the [soon to be officially sanctioned] East Coast MLR side, and will provide a combination of financial and rugby support to the Old Glory DC team. This will also see its Chief Operating Officer, Dominic McKay, sit on the team’s board.
The strategic partnership was born out of conversations in the US market around expanding the PRO14, and Scottish Rugby’s Board has taken the decision to align with MLR at the start.
The MLR currently has nine franchises competing in its second season, following the arrival of the Toronto Arrows and Rugby United New York this year. That number of teams will expand to 12 in 2020, with the inclusion of Old Glory DC along with teams from Atlanta and New England.
Major League Rugby are set to confirm another expansion team with Washington DC joining the league for the 2020 season
— RugbyStudio (@RugbyStudioblog) May 15, 2018
New Affiliation between MLR and Scottish Rugby Union
Scottish Rugby Union chief operating officer Dominic McKay, said: “This is a very exciting moment for both Scottish Rugby and our new partners, Old Glory DC. We have been working with the team behind this new franchise for some time, and I’m delighted we are now in a position to announce our association and support their arrival next season into the MLR. The US market has long been a strategic target for us, and the potential and passion for rugby will undoubtedly grow in the years to come.
“It is important we are creative and develop opportunities beyond our own borders and we are very much looking forward to growing our relationship with the team in Washington in the years to come.”
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson, added: “This is a strategic international partnership, which I am pleased we have secured to become the first Tier 1 nation to take this step with a team in the MLR. We see this relationship as having a number of benefits for rugby in Scotland as well as developing our global rugby footprint.”
Old Glory DC and Scottish Rugby worked openly with, and with the full support of, both MLR and USA Rugby while forging this association.
“From the start, the owners of MLR’s soon to be inaugurated Washington, DC side have demonstrated the highest professionalism and a long-term view toward building a sustainable, successful rugby organization,” said MLR Commissioner Dean Howes.
“Their link with Scottish Rugby is just another sign of that commitment.”
The founding partners of Old Glory DC agreed.
Scottish Rugby Union invest in Old Glory DC
Paul Sheehy commented in the media release, “Scottish Rugby is not only one of the top-ranked Tier One national governing bodies in rugby, but they own two professional rugby teams in the PRO14; they own and operate BT Murrayfield Stadium; they’re a one-sixth owner of the Six Nations tournament; and a one-third owner of the PRO14.
“Whatever we need to learn in rugby, this is a relationship to guide us.”
The Washington team has been developed and is led by former USA Eagles player Paul Sheehy, an owner of Sheehy Auto Stores. He and prominent local businessman Chris Dunlavey, President of program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey, have each contributed to the formation of the organization. Both are long-term sponsors, coaches, and supporters of rugby in the area.
Washington is one of America’s rugby hotbeds, with the D.C area boasting 190 clubs and 7,500 players at school, college and club levels. Overall, the demographics of the market offer great economic potential, with Greater Washington alone including more than 8.5 million residents and rated the third largest media market in the U.S.
Note: the Scottish Rugby Union follow other organizations who have developed relationships and investments in rugby in North America. The Crusaders Super Rugby franchise has a 10% investment in the Seattle Seawolves franchise (announced in February 2018). That is designed to allow for an exchange of ideas, in return of any dividend – so financial rewards, alongside a partnership on the field).
In regards to the existing 2019 Major League Rugby (MLR) season, below are the current rankings;
— Major League Rugby (@usmlr) March 24, 2019
Nine sides compete for this seasons Championship. Add to that, Old Glory DC in 2020, and the strength of the Major League Rugby competition is evident.
So naturally, it is not surprising to see the Scottish Rugby Union and others, interested in being affiliated with the emerging league.
“Main photo credit: Old Glory DC Rugby media release”