Sporting innovation, or punishing those who fund the English game? That’s the argument when it comes to taking rugby union to the United States, as Newcastle Falcons and Saracens will do this Saturday, but one thing can be taken for certain: the Premiership is in the States to stay.
Two years after the inaugural Premiership match in New York, the English competition returns in Philadelphia for what is expected to be the first of an annual overseas game to take place in the state of Pennsylvania. As revealed today by The Independent, Premiership Rugby also has plans to bring at least one of the five American professional sides to Britain to take part in a revamped Anglo-Welsh Cup, something that could come into effect with the next two years.
This will not be the first time that rugby union has delved into its global interest. The Bledisloe Cup clash between New Zealand and Australia first took place outside of either country in 2008 when one of their annual clashes was taken to Hong Kong and Tokyo for three consecutive years. However, America is untapped territory, and while the Premier League is yet to fully expose that sporting interest beyond pre-season friendlies, Premiership Rugby believes it is onto a winner.
Taking one Premiership match a year – along with future pre-season games – to the US and, in return, offering American clubs a new, knowledgeable audience in the form of British competition seems like a fair trade for nearly everyone involved.
But will British fans take to it? Given Saracens will have been involved in both Premiership games to take to the US to date, they provide the best example of what fans are missing out on. Season tickets can range from around £250 to as much as £650 depending on category, meaning that for their 11 home Premiership matches, three home European games and two Anglo-Welsh ties at Allianz Park, fans can pay up to £40 per match. Will fans be offered a reduction in season ticket price then if…