A sports production and entertainment company sanctioned by USARFU plans to stage a 7s 'world championship', an ambition likely to dismay the International Rugby Board.
Grand Prix Entertainment, guided by veteran sports entrepreneur Bill Tatham, yesterday announced that Los Angeles' Home Depot Center 'will be the future home of Grand Prix’s rugby world championships as part of Grand Prix’s exclusive partnership with USA Rugby'.
Queried about the claim, a USARFU official said the union did not vet the statement and will have to play catchup.
GPE, which USARFU has licensed to operate professional 7s in America, could run up against the IRB's habit of reserving to itself any billing for a world title competition. The 15s World Cup is Dublin's primary source of revenue, and although the next 7s World Cup is expected to be the last, that is because rugby's governing body recently engineering the abbreviated game's admission to the Summer Games. It will therefore want to be faithful to the International Olympic Committee.
As far back as the 1990s, the IRB opposed an entrepreneur's plans to stage an invitational world club championship in America, and so persuaded USARFU to withhold sanction. These days Dublin has far more leverage over the US union, which depends heavily on its annual subsidies.
The matter may be especially embarrassing for USARFU vice chair Bob Latham, who recently joined the IRB's executive committee.
Only three weeks ago, GPE and USARFU jointly announced a six-year extension of their agreement. The pact renewed automatically, according to the union official. A draft of the 2008 agreement put the financial terms at $900,000 over 4 years.
GPE has been planning since 2005 to produce a hybrid -- if not say bastardized -- version of rugby while tying up with gaming interests. Its 7s competition will 'instantly connect with the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demo while providing gambling and sports-betting audiences off-the-charts gaming action,' according to a 2009 investment prospectus.
It has yet to field a product. The union has the right to place a director on GPE's board, but has not done so, according to USARFU.