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Second MLR club Rugby New York folds ahead of 2024 season

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Thursday Dec 7, 2023

In a significant blow to Major League Rugby (MLR), Rugby New York, the 2022 MLR champions and one of the league’s prominent teams, is folding ahead of the 2024 season.

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The demise of Rugby New York nicknamed the ‘Ironworkers,’ as reported by Americas Rugby News, is attributed to ownership and financial troubles, marking the second club closure in less than a month following the Toronto Arrows’ exit.

MLR, now left with 11 teams, expressed disappointment over the withdrawal of Rugby New York, acknowledging the commitment and passion of its players, staff, and fan base.

In a statement, MLR CEO Nic Benson emphasised gratitude to the team’s leadership for their efforts in growing rugby in the U.S., particularly in the fiercely competitive market of New York.

“We’re disappointed and saddened to announce the withdrawal of the New York Ironworkers from Major League Rugby, particularly knowing the commitment and pride of its players and staff, as well as the fervent passion of its fan base,” MLR CEO Nic Benson said Wednesday in a statement.”

The player disbursal processes for both Rugby New York and the Toronto Arrows remain uncertain at this time. MLR assured players affected by these closures that announcements regarding future solutions would be forthcoming.

“We’re deeply grateful to the team’s leadership who have worked to grow the game of rugby in the U.S. and New York, striving to do so in one of the most competitive markets in the world. As always, our focus is on doing right by the Club and its players as operations wind down with an announcement about the player disbursal process to come later.”

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Founded in 2018 by James Kennedy, CEO of a Manhattan-based construction firm, Rugby New York had been a formidable force in MLR. The team, owned by New Zealand-based firm Bolton Equities after Kennedy, had been trying to sell the club, according to Americas Rugby News. Despite the ownership changes, the team faced challenges, bouncing between various home venues and settling in Memorial Park in suburban Mount Vernon, New York.

The departure of Rugby New York follows the expulsion of the LA Giltinis, the 2021 champions, in late 2022, raising concerns about the stability of the league. However, MLR remains optimistic about its future, expressing confidence that the 2024 season will proceed as planned. The league, which faced worries of potential collapse during a challenging offseason, assured fans and stakeholders of its commitment to continued growth.

As the league copes with the loss of two major teams, the expansion Miami Sharks still seem on track to debut in the 2024 season. Meanwhile, an unnamed Los Angeles franchise, the new home for Rugby ATL, has had minimal information disclosed since its announcement in August.

MLR CEO Nic Benson emphasized the difficulty of Rugby New York’s decision to withdraw but maintained confidence in the league’s trajectory. Despite the setbacks, MLR remains steadfast in its commitment to growth, anticipating an exciting 2024 season and looking ahead to North America hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031.

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“We feel for those impacted by New York’s decision to withdraw, knowing it was a painful and difficult one to make,” Benson is quoted as saying in the league’s release. “But we also remain confident in the course the league and its owners have charted, leading the way for the success of the sport in advance of North America hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031. We remain committed to growth and look forward to a thrilling 2024 season.”

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