LAS VEGAS, NV – The man in the photo to the left is:
A) Alain Rolland, the International Rugby Board referee who is loved in France, hated in Wales and elicits strong opinions re his body of work in all corners of the rugby world.
B) Controversial Top 14 Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, who is being sued for defamation French refs after he made lurid accusations that the officiating in his team’s loss to Clermont was “refereeing sodomy” and responded to the suit with “I am not surprised that they are attacking me. With what they are paid, they need the money.” Boudjellal also lured Sonny Bill Williams away from the NRL to play French rugby back and bucked up the francs to get Jonny Wilkinson to play for his club.
C) Brian Hightower, former Team USA Eagle now working as a color commentator for NBC/Universal Rugby team, who we find refreshingly honest and on the money with his analysis and commentary – and whom we met yesterday in Las Vegas at the Eagles 7s afternoon training session.
D) The Russian billionaire – 18 times over – that could single-handedly alter the rugby landscape forever.
If you guessed anything but D, you need to step up your game in terms of your rugby fandomness (original RWUphrase). And that’s what we’re here for…
Anyway, Mikhail Prokhorov is the name we were looking for. Who is he and how can he change Rugby forever?
First off, he made his billions after the fall of Communism in Russia, which was like the Wild West then, by basically getting handed a state run company to take into the private sector. Norilsk Nickel, then became the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium, so we know he’s got a ton of nickels to spend. And spend it, he does. He bought the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise, and is so large (he’s literally 6’8″) that Jay-Z, his alleged partner at the Nets, has only about a 2% take in the team. Look, if you’re willing to but the Nets, you must 1) Have a lot of money and 2) Be interested in sports.
Next, he’s tough and either nuts or fearless. Any or all of those describe most of us in the Rugby World, so he’d fit right in? How do we know he’s any of these things? Well, how about the fact that he’s running against Vladmir Putin to become Russia’s next King. Or Czar. Or whatever. Could you imagine? That’s like Boris Yeltsin riding a tank up the steps of the Kremlin… So taking on say… the IRB? That would be child’s play. READ THIS
Finally, if Mikey P got involved in Team Russia, he could very easily make them a world contender – by tossing some of his nickles into Mother Russia’s Bears. If Russia was to become a power in rugby, you know the USA would have to follow suit. You want to see partisan politics in the USA evaporate in an eye-blink, show Congress that the Russians are better than the Americans in something…
So, let’s start emailing, Tweeting and writing letters to the NJ Nets front office, telling Mikhail Prokhorov that we need him in rugby.
Please comment below, come see us in Vegas and check in tomorrow with Junoir Blaber, who continues his series on up and coming names in rugby – this time with Southern Hemisphere stars.