US Pro Rugby competition in turmoil

2016-12-22 14:07
Pedrie Wannenburg (PRO Rugby)

Los Angeles - The US PRO Rugby professional league is in turmoil after just one season, president Doug Schoninger acknowledged on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Schoninger said in a letter to players first reported by Rugby Today that players who competed in the inaugural season would have their contracts terminated.

Schoninger insisted on Wednesday in an interview with the website Americas Rugby News that the move did not mean PRO Rugby planned to shut up shop, but was made necessary by a dispute between the fledgling project and USA Rugby.

Schoninger told the website that after meeting with USA Rugby officials he believed that the body "had no intention of enforcing our rights as defined in our agreement" saying without elaborating that the dispute centered on the issue of "exclusivity".

USA Rugby responded with a statement saying it "categorically denies any and all allegations purported by PRO Rugby Tuesday, December 20".

It's a disappointing situation for the sport in America, where the first-ever professional league kicked off in April.

Five teams, representing San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, San Diego and Ohio took part, with former All Black fullback Mils Muliaina, former Springbok flank Pedrie Wannenburg and Italy's Mirco Bergamasco the highest profile overseas players to sign on.

Denver won the 2016 title, but one team, San Francisco, announced last week that it was folding.

"We are presently evaluating our options for 2017," Schoninger said. "We are committed to having a competition in 2017 and rehiring as many of our 2016 players as possible. Where and when that competition will take place in 2017 is to be determined."

Doug Schoninger's letter to PRO Rugby players is below:

PRO Rugby Players,

As some of you may or may not know, we have been having serious issues with the cooperation and the enforcement of our agreement with USA Rugby. We have been actively trying to resolve our issues with USA Rugby for over four months and, unfortunately, it appears that USA Rugby will not honor the commitments they made to us.

Because of this, we are notifying all presently agreed players of PRO Rugby that we are exercising the Voluntary Termination clause in your contract (section 5(b)). We are hopeful, but with no assurances, that we will be able to resolve all issues with USA Rugby prior to end of the termination clause period. We will keep you up to date with any progress or news as it becomes available.

Please remember, until the end of the termination clause you are still an employee of PRO Rugby and all duties and obligations should be adhered to.

Because of the above, payment for the period ending on December 15th was delayed. These payments will be issued tomorrow, December 21st for receipt no later than December 22, 2016.

I am very sorry that we were forced to take this action and we are trying to do everything we can to ensure that PRO Rugby, its players, coaches, and employees are all treated fairly.

Doug Schoninger

Read more on:    pedrie wannenburg  |  rugby


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