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MLR’s Rugby New York Folding as League’s Second Team to Shutter in a Month

Rugby New York, the 2022 Major League Rugby champion and one of the largest-market sides in North America’s top professional rugby league, is folding ahead of the 2024 MLR season.

The club’s demise was related to ownership and financial troubles, per Americas Rugby News, and leaves the MLR down to 11 teams as of this writing in advance of the 2024 season, which is scheduled to begin early next year.

The Ironworkers are the second MLR club to shutter in less than a month after the league confirmed in late November that the Toronto Arrows — Canada’s only team in the MLR — were going to close their doors.

“We’re disappointed and saddened to announce the withdrawal of the New York Ironworkers from Major League Rugby, particularly knowing the commitment and pride of its players and staff, as well as the fervent passion of its fan base,” MLR CEO Nic Benson said Wednesday in a statement.

“We’re deeply grateful to the team’s leadership who have worked to grow the game of rugby in the U.S. and New York, striving to do so in one of the most competitive markets in the world. As always, our focus is on doing right by the Club and its players as operations wind down with an announcement about the player disbursal process to come later.”

The player disbursal processes for both Rugby New York and Arrows players are currently unknown at this time, though the MLR also noted in its statement confirming the Arrows’ exit that an announcement regarding future solutions for players affected would be coming.

Rugby New York, which was founded in 2018 by Manhattan-based construction firm CEO James Kennedy, is the second MLR champion to exit the league after the LA Giltinis, the 2021 champions, were expelled from the league with the Austin Gilgronis in late 2022. New Zealand-based firm Bolton Equities, who eventually bought the team from Kennedy, had been trying to sell the club, per ARN.

RNY bounced around several home venues in its existence, with its final home ground being Memorial Park in suburban Mount Vernon, New York. Former Auckland Blues (Super Rugby) assistant coach James Semple was the club’s final head coach, while lock Nate Brakeley — who recently retired from both club rugby and international duty with the United States — was the club’s last captain, having been with the side since its inaugural season.

The MLR now has its fewest number of teams competing in the league since the end of the 2019 season, when nine teams were playing. The league then expanded to 12 teams ahead of the 2020 season and has reached a maximum of 13, set in 2022.

Facing worries of the entire league folding after a brutal offseason, the MLR expressed assurance and certainty that it would continue for years to come and that the 2024 campaign was still very much a go.

The expansion Miami Sharks still appear on track to begin play for the 2024 season, though an unnamed Los Angeles franchise — where Rugby ATL relocated following this past season — has had little information revealed on it since the MLR announced the club’s move in August.

“We feel for those impacted by New York’s decision to withdraw, knowing it was a painful and difficult one to make,” Benson is quoted as saying in the league’s release. “But we also remain confident in the course the league and its owners have charted, leading the way for the success of the sport in advance of North America hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031. We remain committed to growth and look forward to a thrilling 2024 season.”

Source: Florugby

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