Aviva Premiership game played in New Jersey.
Reigning champions Saracens and London Irish locked horns on Saturday evening in the first ever Aviva Premiership game to be played aboard. The game was played at the Red Bull Arena, home of MLS (Major League Soccer) franchise the New York Red Bulls.
Although the game has been designated as a ‘flagship game’ there was a lot at stake as both sides find themselves at each end of the table. Sarries looked to extend their lead at the summit of the table, while Irish found themselves at the bottom, eight points adrift of Newcastle. London Irish were the home side for this clash as Premiership Rugby were expecting a partisan crowd from the Irish diaspora of the New York metropolitan area.
The event coincided with the build up to St. Patrick’s day and there was American internationals on the field too with Chris Wyles and Titi Lamositele of Saracens that added more interest.
With the NFL international series that has been so successful in London, Premiership Rugby will be hoping to follow up on this trend. Premiership director Dominic Hayes said: “This isn’t a brand new concept. It’s something NFL and NBA have been doing the opposite way for a few years now.”
Your atypical American sports fan are somewhat xenophobic to being introduced to foreign sports such as football, sorry soccer although the tide is gradually changing. So how can rugby make a bold statement in ‘merica?
Hayes is confident about its chances: “It’s difficult to break the States. The Beatles managed it, One Direction got there, I think, now it’s Premiership Rugby’s turn.” He had reason to be confident as the game was shown on terrestrial broadcaster NBC and from next season it will broadcast England’s top division on a weekly basis.
Hayes added: “That’s really the building block of establishing the brand stateside.”
Hopefully our trans-Atlantic cousins will appreciate another form of the oval-shaped ball game. Only time will tell.