News of the launch of an American sports and entertainment company that among other things will promote Sevens, is also potentially exciting news for Rugby League in the US.
There are plans for global TV broadcasts with US channels to pick up the coverage and if Rugby League were to be part of that package, which it very well could be, it would provide mass exposure for the game across America.
Grand Prix Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment company, has announced the appointment of one of the most iconic leaders and innovators in global sport, Alan Rothenberg as a shareholder, and Chairman of The Board of Directors of the newly formed Grand Prix Sports which will oversee all of Grand Prix’s sports related enterprises.
Grand Prix also announced an exclusive representation agreement with Premier Partnerships, a full service sports marketing firm co-founded by Rothenberg and Randy Bernstein, for Grand Prix’s naming rights and sponsorship sales attached to its rugby ventures in partnership with USA Rugby.
William Tatham, Chairman of Grand Prix Entertainment, praised the move, saying, “Leadership and timing and are everything. We recently completed a successful multi-year, multi-million dollar start up effort, building a Formula 1 + Olympic sport model operating platform. Without a doubt, Olympic and FIFA World Cup official and MLS founder Alan Rothenberg is exactly the right man, at exactly the right time, to lead the launch of Grand Prix Sports.”
“Grand Prix has the right recipe for Rugby,” said Alan Rothenberg, “After what we saw in the formation of MLS, it’s plain to me that all the ingredients to create a significant global success with exclusive sanction rights and holdings in connection with professional Rugby are in place. I am excited to contribute to what I think will be a major league success.”
Chaired by Rothenberg, Grand Prix advisory board members include Bernstein, Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports; Kelly Crabb, Olympic attorney and senior partner of the international law firm of Sheppard & Mullin; Rich Rose, former President of Caesars World Sports; Ray Harmon, RFHarmon Media, former Director of Finance, VP Business Planning, CBS Sports, and Gary Marenzi, former President of MGM Worldwide Television.
USA Rugby, an official member of the Unites States Olympic Committee as well as the Rugby World Cup’s International Rugby Board, awarded Grand Prix the exclusive US sanction, license and global broadcast rights to own, operate and globally broadcast the professional sport of Rugby Sevens, which was soon after named a new Olympic sport.
Rothenberg brings to Grand Prix his long and highly successful track record in the development of international sports leagues. In 1984, Peter Ueberroth, organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, asked Rothenberg to take on the role of Soccer Commissioner for the Games. The unexpected popularity of soccer that summer - including multiple sell-outs of the 100,000+ seat Rose Bowl - established before the world that an American audience for the game existed, and Rothenberg's success caused FIFA to seek out his services as Chairman and CEO of the 1994 World Cup, which had been awarded to the USA.
In 1990, Rothenberg, with FIFA's backing, was elected to the Presidency of the United States Soccer Federation, a position he would occupy until 1998. Under Rothenberg's guidance, the 1994 FIFA World Cup became a major success, setting attendance records that still stand and earning a surplus of over $50 million.
Fulfilling a promise to FIFA made as part of the World Cup bid, he oversaw the establishment of a full-time Division I US league, Major League Soccer. He also served as Chairman of the record breaking 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 2007, Rothenberg was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, located in Oneonta, New York, in recognition of his contribution as a "Builder" of the sport in the United States and received the coveted FIFA Medal of Honor.
In addition to soccer, Rothenberg was also an important figure in professional basketball for many years, including variously representing the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers. Rothenberg was the long serving Chairman of the Los Angeles Sports Council.
As the sport of rugby continues to gather momentum in the USA, with 60,000 plus fans attending the IRB Las Vegas Sevens this past weekend, it will be interesting to see how the sport of rugby league in America may factor into the equation. Time will tell.