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SBD Global/May 19, 2017/Franchises

Pro12 Plan For U.S. Expansion Faces Challenges Due To Governance Issues

Plans for Pro12 expansion in the U.S. "remain subject to concerns over governance issues" within USA Rugby and "uncertainty regarding stadiums and potential support," according to Pengelly & Dart of the London GUARDIAN. Sources in the U.S. and U.K. said that Houston was "set to be announced by the end of this month as a Pro12 team," starting play in Sept. '18. Pro12 and USA Rugby execs made no comment, however, and conversations with other U.S. stakeholders revealed "unresolved issues." One "potential obstacle" to any announcement of Pro12 plans this year is the sanctioning agreement for an "exclusive domestic club 15-a-side professional rugby league" held by Doug Schoninger, the N.Y. businessman behind PRO Rugby. Schoninger said, "Without knowing the details of the proposed Pro12 team in Houston, we believe for many reasons a Pro12 team in the USA is a complete violation of our agreement with USA Rugby and World Rugby and we will defend our rights vigorously." In Houston, "some question whether a Pro12 team could attract enough fans to make it financially viable." There are also local "logistical problems, beyond the considerable challenge of flying teams" between the U.S. and Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. The preferred venue, the 22,000-capacity BBVA Compass Stadium, has staged int'l rugby. But the stadium already hosts Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo games, National Women's Soccer League club Houston Dash matches, int'l football fixtures and "occasional concerts." It is also home to Texas Southern University's American football team (GUARDIAN, 5/18).
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