Sports This Week - One step closer to MLR in Canada

This week some very exciting news has come out, at least if you are a fan of 15s rugby, which I certainly am.

In the past I have written about the inaugural season of Major League Rugby, with Seattle winning the championship with several Canadians playing important roles including player/coach Phil Mack.

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This is a league I’ve long wanted, but with a Canadian team to follow. This season the Ontario Arrows played some exhibition games against MLR franchises as a sort of feeling out process to see if the team could be competitive and make the numbers work.

Well the team issued a release this week indicating the Arrows Rugby Club 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 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,” said Arrows co-founder and investor, Bill Webb in the release.

“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.”

While there are still a few details to be hammered out, the Arrows look close to official entry, which is great for Canadian rugby fans, and for the MLR as it would take the league to a North American one, not just American.

The MLR is certainly going to grow, seven teams in year one, just not being enough to be considered a legitimate major league in a country as large as the U.S. I would expect 16 teams as sort of a minimum for the league, a goal being chased by the National Lacrosse League and Major League Lacrosse as well.

But in hitting 16 teams there will be some concern over the availability of quality players, and the Arrows would be something of an outlier to those concerns as most players are likely to be Canadian.

So I certainly hope the Arrows get the final ducks in a row, and looking a bit farther ahead, Vancouver remains rumoured for 2020 which would be equally positive for 15s rugby here.

Saturday of course was time to watch the world field lacrosse championship.

The game was highly entertaining, although a missed call late in favour of the United States, and a glitch clock showing a difference between the official and on field clock, which both seemed to give the Americans an edge in knotting the score 8-8 and winning as time ran out, ending Canadian hopes of repeating the championship they won in 2014.

Still the event was outstanding with 46 countries taking part in the Israel-hosted event. In four years the championship will be in Coquitlam, and lacrosse fans may want to head west for the event to see the best in our national summer sport.

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