Harlequin Football Club announced today, November 4, 2016 that it has reached an agreement in principle to become a minority shareholder and strategic partner in USA Rugby’s commercial subsidiary, Rugby International Marketing (RIM), and in the governing body’s digital video platform, The Rugby Channel.
RIM was established in 2015 as the commercial arm of USA Rugby, representing its commercial rights with the responsibility to identify and secure new revenue streams that will support the development of the game in the United States. To build interest in the game, RIM launched earlier this year The Rugby Channel (TRC), an ‘over the top’ digital video platform which features live and on-demand rugby content from the US and around the world. Other strategic investors in RIM include the England Rugby Football Union and CSM Sport and Entertainment.
Under the terms of its investment, Harlequins will commit the Club’s content and programming expertise to help enhance The Rugby Channel’s value proposition and engage more American sports fans in the game of rugby. Among the first programs to be delivered under the partnership will be Harlequins’ 150th Anniversary celebration match against the Maori All Blacks, which The Rugby Channel will stream exclusively live from The Twickenham Stoop on November 16.
Harlequins sees the United States as a dynamic and promising rugby market, as the game is now the fastest growing team sport in the country with participation numbers in excess of 1.3 million. As the country’s men’s and women’s teams become increasingly competitive around the world, that interest is sure to grow. The American teams’ impact in the rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics in August and USA Rugby’s selection to host the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco represent significant milestones in that process.
Having entered into an initial partnership with USA Rugby in 2015, Harlequins’ investment into RIM and TRC will expedite the fulfilment of the club’s strategic growth plans in America. Those plans include pre-season tours and related matches; the identification of US rugby talent and the creation of effective pathways for talented players to realise their potential within the domestic game; the development of a new grassroots rugby competition in California; and the expansion of all aspects of the youth and elite game, from facilities through coaching and playing.
RIM will represent Harlequins’ commercial interests in the USA and will be appointed as the Club’s sales agency of record for the country.
In addition, as part of the partnership, USA Rugby will use The Twickenham Stoop as a “home away from home” for its national teams when touring in the UK and Europe. The Club and the governing body will also collaborate on the delivery of a new “home and away” event to excite the sport and engage new and existing supporters.
Commenting on today’s announcement, David Ellis, Chief Executive of Harlequins, said: “We are delighted to confirm our investment into RIM and TRC as our sport continues to grow at unprecedented levels in America.
“Following the signing of our MOU with USA Rugby ahead of last year’s World Cup we have been working closely together to support our respective on and off field development. Our pledge to help grow the game in America has been the driver for our work, which to date has been in the form of pre-season tours and supporting the development of grass roots programmes.
“Today’s announcement marks an exciting and natural extension of our commitment to that pledge as we build on our ambitions in our 150th year to help rugby realise its potential in an ever growing and dynamic market.”
Chad Keck, Chairman of Rugby International Marketing, said: “We are excited to welcome Harlequins as our newest partners in RIM and The Rugby Channel. Their involvement is a testament to the tremendous growth potential of rugby in the United States, and we look forward to working with David Ellis and his colleagues to further both parties’ commercial and sporting ambitions.”
About Rugby International Marketing
Created by USA Rugby in 2015, Rugby International Marketing is a for-profit commercial entity tasked with representing USA Rugby’s commercial rights and developing new revenue streams to fund the game. The mission of Rugby International Marketing is to provide attractive financial returns to USA Rugby and its minority shareholders by utilizing third-party capital in an entrepreneurially driven company. Among the properties represented by RIM are the USA men’s and women’s national teams, the Americas Rugby Championship, Grand Prix Rugby and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens. RIM also owns and operates The Rugby Channel, an “over the top” digital video platform launched in April 2016 which features live and on-demand rugby content from the United States and around the world. Minority investors in RIM include the England Rugby Football Union and CSM Sport and Entertainment.
Harlequins is one of the oldest and most famous rugby clubs in the world. Founded in 1866, the Club has, throughout its vibrant history, been a proud innovator in the game both nationally and globally. The Club is a founder member of the RFU and is as famous for its quartered shirt, as for its expansive style of play. A truly local and global rugby club, Harlequins has over 230 community clubs and schools affiliated locally to The Stoop, our home of over 50 years in south-west London, as well as a further eight across the world. On a playing front Harlequins has developed one of the most successful Academies in the Premiership and on the national stage we have the most England Qualified Players in the league. For more information, visit: www.quins.co.uk