The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will help grow rugby commercially in the United States after becoming a minority shareholder and strategic partner in USA Rugby's new commercial subsidiary, Rugby International Marketing (RIM).
Rugby International Marketing is the new commercial arm of USA Rugby, representing its commercial rights but also exploring new revenue streams to support the development of rugby in the USA. This includes international events, such as Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 to be played in the San Francisco Bay Area, sponsorship, digital, and broadcast opportunities.
USA Rugby's unique, new business model aims to accelerate the commercialisation and development of the sport in the US by investing the revenue back into the game.
The RFU will provide strategic advice on how to develop USA Rugby's commercial rights in the world's largest sports market. Rugby is now the fastest growing team sport in America with participation numbers in excess of one million and their teams becoming increasingly competitive globally.
USA Rugby's recent success on the world stage is testament to its improved standing in the global game. Last season, the Eagles claimed their maiden HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament win at the Marriott London Sevens and both the men's and women's team have qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Rugby World Cup 2015 will mark the USA's seventh appearance in rugby's showcase tournament since the first in 1987.
The RFU's partnership with RIM follows the highly successful Rugby World Cup 2015 IMPACT Legacy Unity project, which has seen the union investing time and resource in developing rugby in 17 countries across Europe in partnership with Rugby Europe, World Rugby and UK Sport. This work has been applauded by the UK Government.
RFU CEO, Ian Ritchie, said: "We have had another record year financially and we anticipate this investment in rugby in the USA will have a beneficial effect on rugby in England, the US and across the world, while not diluting our investment and strategic ambitions for rugby in England. The RFU's financial returns as a partner in RIM will be reinvested back into the game in England. Investing in the world's largest sporting market makes a great deal of sense and we look forward to working with USA Rugby."
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville said: "We are delighted to have made this mutually beneficial agreement with the RFU. Their expertise and guidance will help to ensure that we further commercially develop rugby in the USA. RIM will help us generate new revenue streams that will support the continued development of the game in the USA."
The RFU will have no involvement in, or influence over USA Rugby's governance or structure, and the financial returns for the RFU will be reinvested back into the game in England.
The RFU's investment has been welcomed by World Rugby, who themselves continue to be committed to the ongoing development of rugby in the U.S, along with other rugby nations also supportive of the innovative approach aimed to help grow rugby in an important market.