Major League Rugby & Ontario Arrows
Ontario Arrows Release
(TORONTO, ON) – The Ontario Arrows Rugby Club, in the wake of their successful seven-game 2018 exhibition season, have announced that they have secured the exclusive negotiating rights for an Ontario-based Major League Rugby team and intend to enter and compete in MLR in 2019, subject to agreement on key terms and conditions of entry.
The Arrows would join the teams that have battled through the league’s 2018 inaugural season, which culminated in the Seattle Seawolves’ thrilling victory over the Glendale Raptors in the MLR Championship on Saturday, July 7 in San Diego.
Arrows co-founder and investor, Bill Webb, said, “The Arrows investor group, players and staff are all thrilled with the positive response and support that we have received from Canadian rugby fans and newcomers to the game, our commercial sponsors, our venue operators (York University) and from our national and provincial sports organizations, Rugby Canada and Rugby Ontario. The Arrows are now an established competitive rugby team and we are champing at the bit to ramp up our commercial operations, including the sale of season tickets and further engagement with corporate sponsors. In fact, fans and corporate sponsors have even been approaching us prior to our formal MLR entry, which is very encouraging.”
Major League Rugby is a single-entity corporate model similar to Major League Soccer, and started with seven teams in 2018. The individual team owners operate each local team and have responsibility for all activities around it, including hosting games, regional broadcasts, academy team systems and youth development.
MLR has a multi-year broadcast and streaming contracts with CBS Sports Network and ESPN in the USA, and the Ontario entry will open up the attractive Canadian marketplace for increased MLR exposure in the coming months. The Arrows will play their home games in Toronto, with the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) being the fourth-largest media market in North America.
“Ontario would be a great expansion market for MLR, anchored by a robust rugby community,” added Nic Benson, MLR Deputy Commissioner. “The Arrows have already put together a competitive team for this past year’s exhibition season.”
Ontario played against two MLR teams this past spring, drawing with Houston Sabercats 28-28 and defeating Utah Warriors 24-20, with both matches played on the road. The Arrows have also just announced plans to host MLR regular season top-place finishers, the Glendale Raptors, on Sunday, Sept. 16 at York Lions Stadium.
“We had a great exhibition run in 2018 and showed that we can compete on the field,” said Arrows general manager Mark Winokur. “We look forward to building on the strong foundation of our program and to engaging the Canadian rugby community in that process.”
Ontario would join Rugby United New York and a potential Washington, DC franchise as the eastern-based franchises in MLR, with some great rivalries expected to naturally evolve from that configuration.
“Naturally, the northeast cities will want to beat the heck out of each other on the field, and it’s those local derbies that really drive fan interest,” added Winokur. “But, having played teams in Glendale (Denver), Utah and Houston already, we look forward to the chance to do the whole circuit. It will be an honour to compete with these teams week in and week out.”