NEW YORK, NY – Last month we had the chance to speak with Erin Sullivan (Executive Director of the Friends of the British
Council) and Wayne Morris (CSR and Community Director of Premiership Rugby) while they were in town for various meetings and scouting visits ahead of the Aviva Premiership clash in Philadelphia between
Saracens and the Newcastle Falcons on September 16, 2017.
Both Sullivan and Morris were excited to talk to us through the partnership of AEG, NBC Sports, USA Rugby,
Friends of the British Council and Premiership Rugby through which several initiatives were being
developed to provide ongoing opportunities for the US rugby community.
“Following Premiership Rugby’s first year of coverage on NBC Sports now comes the American
Series initiative. Work in the community with our world-class coaches is in the DNA of Premiership Rugby
and we are committed to help grow the game in America,” said Wayne Morris.
“We feel the most direct way to grow the game in the States is bringing high-quality coach, referee and
player development resources on behalf of and in partnership with our clubs directly to many US cities
and teams. When we approached USA Rugby to stage this regular season match in Philadelphia we
discussed not only the match and long term growth, but engagement and sustainability at the grass roots
and commercial levels.”
The British Council has been a global partner for Premiership Rugby since 2011. Erin explained that
Premiership Rugby and the British Council have worked together on rugby for social change initiatives on
4 continents in multiple countries.
“We share the belief that sport has a unique transformative power that
crosses social, racial, religious, gender and ability barriers. We have worked in favelas, townships and
refugee camps, world class stadiums and state-of-the-art facilities and the values of rugby and how they
change hearts and minds are universal.”
One of the unique aspects of the partnership is that they customize the offering and program based on
the input from government and RFUs, as well as the feedback from the existing rugby community in each
“Our goal is not to duplicate or encroach on what already exists but rather to enhance, scale and
enrich the rugby landscape in the countries we have programs. We work collaboratively with local rugby
clubs, NGOS partners, international brands, federations, government ministries and departments as well
as educational institutions to design initiatives for impact.”
When we asked what they learned when they started doing the scoping for the US market Erin was quick to
“I’ve seen what I love most about being an American. I’ve seen the tireless dedication nationwide
of multi-generational volunteers – families, coaches, players, clubs, businesses and communities giving
their time, their expertise, their funding and their hearts to share what they love about rugby. Everyone
says America is the great sleeping giant of rugby, well, I think they need to take a roadtrip across the US
because the giant is awake and she is hungry and she has a lot of brothers! The American rugby community
is the perfect reflection of the US. It is a melting pot of nationalities and religions; it is gutsy,
entrepreneurial, loud and sometimes a bit messy and what we lack in expertise or traditions we make up
for it in enthusiasm and grit.”
“We’ve taken our time building this partnership because we know this is a complicated and rapidly
changing market and we want to make a meaningful difference. With the combination of Premiership
Rugby’s quality and expertise, USA Rugby’s nationwide base of dedicated volunteers, fans, players
and practitioners, NBC Sports’ platforms and reach and AEG’s creativity and vision we have a
wonderful collaborative partnership developing.”
As one of their first program strands they will offer 10 male and 10 female rugby players aged 17-18 and
10 coaches a trip to England to train at one of the Premiership Rugby Academies for a week in 2018. To
choose the lucky 20 players and 10 coaches they decided to offer both in-person clinics and an online
video submission option.
“We wanted to give players and coaches across the country an equal opportunity to be selected so in
addition to 4 in-person player clinics and 2 coach clinics, all of which are free, we have set up an online
portal so players and coaches from all 50 states can tell us and show us why they should be chosen for
the international training visits.”
The clinics are open to female and male rugby players aged 15-24, who will be divided into three age
categories: 15-16, 17-18, 19-24. Up to 40 players from each age group will be selected to attend a VIP
Premiership Coaching experience at Talen Energy Stadium on September 16, plus receive a free match
day ticket to watch Saracens vs Newcastle Falcons.
September 5: New Jersey from 4:15pm-7:45pm at 850 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738
September 6: New Jersey from 5:45pm-8:30pm at 1000 Garfield Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07304
September 7: Philadelphia from 5:00pm-8:00pm at Penn Park, 3000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
September 10: Washington DC from 2:00pm-5:00pm at 13300 Arctic Avenue, Rockville, MD 20853
Additionally, 10 rugby coaches will be selected from one of 2 free advanced coach clinics or if unable to
attend there will be participants selected from online video submissions. Coaches will be required to be
Level 200 certified by USA Rugby to win the UK experience.
September 10: Washington DC from 11:00am-1:30pm at 13300 Arctic Avenue, Rockville, MD 20853
September 11: Philadelphia from 6:30pm-9:30pm at 1101 First Avenue, Media, PA 19063
Other activities like community outreach, referee and coach shadowing opportunities are all being
finalized. On September 16th, a large Flag Rugby Festival for grades 2-8 will take place on the outside fields
next to Talen Energy Stadium from 1:00-3:00pm.
There will be a formal press release out soon – but for now, we’ve got the exclusive news. Also, our full interview with
Wayne Morris and AEG’s Donal Walsh will be out soon!