COVID-19’s Latest Victim: USA Rugby Goes Bankrupt Due to “Insurmountable Financial Constraints”
Lafayette, Colorado. USA Rugby, the governing body of rugby union in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The organization’s board of directors said the crisis made it impossible for them to deal with the financial challenges they were facing. The organization will now go through reorganization under the guidance of World Rugby.
Barbara O’Brien, the chairwoman of USA Rugby, said that the coronavirus pandemic brought with it “the most challenging period [the organization] has faced.” But it looks like she remains optimistic about the future of USA Rugby and its mission of promoting the game. O’Brien stated that, despite these hardships, the organization will continue to work towards its goal of creating “a balanced rugby community where the game can truly grow.”
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Rugby in the USA
Rugby USA’s bankruptcy came as a shock to many fans, mainly because rugby union had been steadily gaining in popularity in the United States. The game’s fanbase grew quickly. More and more high schools and universities were establishing rugby teams. As a result of this, Rugby USA’s revenues were soaring. In fact, they had almost tripled in the time period between 2006 and 2016, growing from around $5,300,000 to $14,690,000.
And the popularity translated to performance on the field. America’s national men’s and women’s teams, nicknamed the Eagles, had both qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. The American women’s team is seen as one of the strongest in the world, being ranked 7th in the most recent Women’s Rugby International Rankings. The men’s national team is currently ranked as the 16th strongest in the world.
As the sport became more popular, many professional and semi-professional teams were established. Most notably, the nation’s top-flight domestic league, Major League Rugby (MLR) held its inaugural season in 2018. For the 2020 season, MLR added three new expansion teams, growing to a size of 12 teams (11 in the USA and 1 in Canada). The league had secured TV broadcasting deals with such major networks as ESPN, CBS Sports, TUDN, and TSN. The current season began on February 8 and was put on hiatus on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19’s Effect on Other American Sports
It’s not just rugby that COVID-19 has affected. The coronavirus epidemic had taken its toll on other professional American sports as well, with three out of the “big four” sports leagues suspending their seasons.
On March 11, the National Basketball Association (NBA) became the first major sports league to put its season on hold. The decision came shortly after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert contracted the virus.
On March 12, Major League Baseball (MLB) canceled all of its spring training games and pushed back the start of its season. While the league is yet to make an official decision, pundits have put forward two likely scenarios: the league will either play a condensed season behind closed doors or it won’t play at all.
On the same day, the Commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL), Gary Bettman, announced that its season, which was nearing completion, would also be put on hold.
The only major sport that remains unaffected is football. With its 2020 season starting in September, the National Football League (NFL) plans to start play as scheduled.