Major League Rugby Virtual 2020 Recap

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Major League Rugby Memo

DALLAS, TX –  On March 12th, in the wake of the NBA’s decision to suspend play and the NCAA March Madness cancelation, Major League Rugby suspended play for 30 days following world-wide concerns over COVID-19.  For nascent leagues like MLR, this type of disruption to the season could, and for many did (e.g, the “XFL”), become too much to bear.  Refusing to sit back and wait for operations to start back up, a proposal for a “virtual” MLR season to take place on Twitch was submitted to the Commissioner the very next day.  This was a drastic departure from anything previously attempted by the league, but it was widely recognized that the only way to survive was to truly reinvent ourselves.

This decisive action taken by the league and the teams allowed MLR to be a first-mover in this space and became the first professional sports league to continue the season virtually during COVID-19. Several leagues such as MLB, NHL, and NBA followed this direction. As we wrapped up our first Virtual Season on Saturday, Major League Soccer had still not announced their virtual league which is slated to start later this month.

By virtually all metrics, MLR Virtual was an incredible success. It demonstrated the effectiveness, nimbleness, and efficiency of our efforts when each team bands together towards a greater good.  Through the three week season, we gained over 1.2M views on our Twitch channel along with an additional 85,000 watching on FTF digital platforms.  We also raised $10,886 for Feeding America’s COVID-19 fund. This initiative not only helped MLR build and strengthen its relationship with existing rugby fans in a fun and interactive way, but also helped us reach a brand new audience by giving us a platform to highlight our athletes’ personalities and through influencer partnerships with Johnathan Abram (NFL), Patrick Chung (NFL), and Josh ‘Spartan’ McHatten (Dallas Mavericks 2KLeague). MLR Virtual also earned widespread media attention with mentions in NBC San Diego, The Economist, Front Office Sport, CBS, Fox, and several other online publications, and opened the door for new partnerships with Facebook Gaming, Nacom Gaming (producers of Rugby 20 video game), and Allied Esports among others.

See the impact of MLR 2020:Virtual in this recap video.

MLR Recap Video

See the attached document to see deeper details and data.

This was truly a team effort.  Thank you to the teams’ staff, the players involved, the announcers, our friends at FTF, and those who worked tirelessly on the league side.  We are working daily for the next iteration of “Virtual”.  Exciting stuff to come.

Clips and Highlights

DALLAS, TX – From the sunshine and warm weather of The Lone Star State, Major League Rugby Commissioner George Killebrew joins Matt McCarthy in a chat that includes the league’s future, dealing with a pandemic, transitioning from working for Mark Cuban in the NBA to the MLR and the Virtual MLR call to action. There’s more, too, in this Week 134 (Sweet Jesus, we need a network deal!) segment of our show – like the Mavs losing to Shaq but beating LeBron in the NBA Finals and SMU’s Pony Express combo of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.



This is MUST-SEE!

RUGBY TOWN, USA – With rumors and speculation flying around the rugby media stratosphere re the Colorado Raptors leaving Major League Rugby, the man in the center of it all is the colorful and entertaining “Rugby Mayor,” Mike Dunafon the-perceived-to-be-owner. Simply put, without Mike, there’d be no Raptors. See what he has to say about the Glendale, CO-based team leaving Infinity Park without professional rugby.

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NEW YORK, NY – In this Week 133 of our studio show, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Power, Bryan Ray and Matt McCarthy breakdown the Virtual MLR before giving their picks for Best Front Players in the actual abbreviated Major League Rugby season. Who’s the best Loosehead, Hooker and Tighthead? You might be surprised by the answers…

Also coming are interviews with Rugby Town USA Mayor, Mike Dunafon, re the departure of the Raptors from the #MLR and a separate segment with league Commissioner, George Killebrew… Finally, look for Mike Friday, George Hook, Steve Lewis and McCarthy offering their opinions on the proposed Club World Cup.


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About Matt McCarthy 754 Articles
Matt McCarthy comes to from their partner in the USA, RWU and MTM feature a stable of diverse contributors, with coverage that is both serious and with a wink. Find him on twitter: @Matt_McCarthy00