Professional Rugby Premier League (RPL) In India Set For 2024 Launch
As we first reported in November of 2023, the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has now formally announced details for its first professional 7s rugby league, Rugby Premier League (RPL), which is due to launch in September 2024.
The IRFU said via its social media platforms over the weekend that launching the Rugby Premier League is part of its “goals of spreading the development of the sport across the country”. The RPL has the support of the Odisha government and other partners such as the regions of Maharashtra and Delhi.
The Asian Rugby Union added that “The league will feature some of the best 7s rugby talent internationally as well as from India. The league to be played in the 7s format of the sport is slated to be held in September this year and will feature 6 teams in its inaugural season.”
The president of IRFU, Rahul Bose added, “This is a landmark moment for India and Indian Rugby. Rugby is one of the biggest sports globally and India has been making steady progress in the sport for the last few years.”
This will be a franchise-based league which is similar to that of the Premier Rugby Sevens in the United States. The Indian RPL is set to feature six rugby sevens franchise teams and the season will take place throughout September 2024.
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Bose also confirmed that they have partnered with sports marketing company Baseline Ventures India Pvt Ltd to organise and market the league.
Tuhin Mishra, Managing Director of Baseline Ventures India Pvt Ltd, said, “We are thrilled to collaborate with the Indian Rugby Football Union in spearheading the development of the inaugural franchise-based rugby league. With its high-octane gameplay and constant action, Rugby possesses all the essential elements to captivate audiences, both on-screen and in-person.”
The IRFU is confident this will be a “game changer for Indian Rugby” and provide its players a platform to compete alongside and against some of the best in the world.
As usual, when these ambitious plans are announced there will be questions raised about funding and making it commercially viable and successful. Is this the best move to grow the game domestically, and will there be buy-in from the world’s best players?
When the RPL tender bid was announced in 2023, its aims included:
- To have 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 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.
Some of the other concerns would be the potential lack of dedicated rugby grounds in India, as well as the logistics for this to work across such a massive geographical country.
Fan engagement and attracting the best players globally are other factors to consider.
To date, neither the women’s or men’s national teams from India have played in the top tier Asia Rugby Sevens Series but rather compete in the second tier Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy. Will offering huge sums of money to lure the global best sevens players be a sustainable strategy?
The proposed Asia Rugby tournament structure is also set to change and both the proposal and dates for Asia Rugby tournaments in 2024 are still to be confirmed.
No international 7s tournaments clash with the proposed RPL timeframe in September 2024 with the SVNS, Challenger Series and Olympics all outside of this window.
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