Harlequin Football Club have announced 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 US 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 The Rugby Channel (TRC) earlier this year, 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 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 enhance The Rugby Channel’s value proposition and engage more American sports fans in 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 16th November.
Harlequins sees the United States as an exciting 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.”