Indian Rugby Football Union Looks To Establish 7s Professional Rugby Premier League
Rugby India has announced its intentions to form a 7s Rugby Premier League and is on the search for a “competent and qualified commercial partner” by releasing a request for proposal (RFP) to try and make the league a reality.
The Indian Rugby Football Union has made several changes over recent years, including the move to semi-professionalise nationally selected players, establish a base training camp for national team training, and hire international coaches for its 7s and XVs programs from South Africa.
Rugby India’s leadership has also been shaken up and the continued investment with private and governmental support (notably Odisha) means the nation is on course to offer one of the few professional rugby union leagues in the region.
The union is currently led by Rahul Bose as president, Sanaya Mehta Vyas as Vice President, and Ankush Arora was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer. In mid-2023 Bose said part of the union’s ambitions were over the next two to five years to professionalize the sport and to – “pay players, central contracts, and performance-based promotions.”
2023 has been a busy year for Rugby India, with age grade and national teams taking part in several high-profile tournaments, which include:
- Asia Rugby U-18 Championship – Girls finished second
- Asia Rugby Trophy Sevens – Ladies 7s finished second
- Sent women’s 7s team to Asian Games, Asian Olympic 7s regional qualifiers and ARST
- Sent men’s 7s team to Asian Olympic 7s regional qualifiers and ARST
- Men’s XV took part in Asia Rugby Championship Division 2 2023
State Of Rugby In India – Rugby Premier League 2024 (Sevens Rugby)
The RFP document (which is available to download) sheds some great insights on the state of the sport in India.
Rugby India wants to further popularise and professionalise the sport, and this means it is looking to launch a professional rugby league in India in the Rugby Sevens format under the Rugby Premier League (RPL).
- Rugby India wants a commercial partner to organise, manage, and operate the RPL for a period of 10 years – this is only for Rugby Sevens for both men & women.
- Rugby India says it has the right to appoint a separate commercial partner for a professional rugby league in Rugby 15’s format at a later stage as determined by Rugby India.
The union is ambitious too and proposes to commence the first season of RPL in 2024. In terms of the state of the rugby in India, the document suggests:
- Rugby is being played across 29 states, and 320 districts across the length & breadth of the country.
- There are 100,000+ rugby players in India.
Attraction Of Sevens Rugby Globally
Aside from the JRLO, there is no fully professional rugby union league operating in Asia although some Asian unions have fully or semi-professional contracted players – particularly in sevens rugby.
Japan’s domestic 7s teams have recruited national team players to play in their highly competitive season from Thailand, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, the USA and others.
Globally, the Premier Rugby Sevens in the US is the only other professional sevens league we are aware of, and they attracted as many as 28 Olympian rugby players to PR7s rosters in 2023, including players from the US, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand etc. The season also saw a 21 per cent increase in attendance and a 44 per cent increase in sponsor revenue in 2023.
The Paris 2024’s rugby 7s tournament will take place between 24-30 July 2024 at the Stade de France with a total of 24 rugby sevens teams, while the new SVNS Series will get underway in December 2023.