The trail-blazing journey of the National Rugby League (NRL) into the United States has been green-lit, with four teams selected to take part in the history-making 2024 season starter. South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and the Brisbane Broncos have been chosen to be involved in a monumental double-header at the colossal 65,000 seater Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. This milestone event signals the first instance of competition matches, except those conducted in New Zealand, being outwardly staged from Australian soil.
The project received the go-ahead following confirmation of securing the Allegiant Stadium, which also serves as the ground for the National Football League’s Las Vegas Raiders. The majority of clubs ardently vied for the privilege of being the first to play in Las Vegas. Opportunities for those teams that miss out this year will be available in subsequent seasons.
NRL‘s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andrew Abdo expressed gratitude to the participating teams for their cooperation, and also extended the NRL‘s appreciation to their broadcasting partners for their unwavering support and dedication to the initiative. “The 2024 matches in Las Vegas will be a key highlight of the thrilling ‘Australia Week’,” said Abdo, explaining that the week will serve as a platform to showcase both rugby league and Australia to the US market.
Abdo further iterated, “Our focus now is to work collectively with all four clubs to tie up loose ends concerning the matches in Vegas and ensure that the event is a massive hit for fans, with an emphasis on maximising travel, attendance and the overall enjoyment of this unique rugby league experience.”
“We are excited to put rugby league on a platform it has never been on before and we look forward to giving all clubs the opportunity in the upcoming years,” Abdo added excitingly.
The passionate competition to participate in the historic matches led all interested clubs to submit a business case, selling why they should be chosen. From all entries, three Sydney-based clubs and the Brisbane Broncos were selected. The choice involves a strategic promotional move as the Rabbitohs fan Russel Crowe and Sea Eagles supporter Hugh Jackman have committed to championing the event. Last year, Jackman expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “Bring it on! They would love the great game of rugby league here in the US, I’m sure.”
This venture opens rugby league to a possibly large and profitable new market, with the potential to lure in new fans and sponsors and capitalise on the eruption in legalised gambling in the US.
The venture does not sit without a chequered history in America. The last failed endeavour was the Denver Test match between New Zealand and England, which resulted in a financial loss for the promoter and left the players initially at a loss.
However, learning from historical oversights, the NRL has identified the 2024 matches as the beginning of a five-year plan, aimed at establishing this overseas journey as a sustainable, long-term venture.