Major League Rugby in crisis as LA and Austin are disqualified from the playoffs | rugby federation
Less than a month after the United States won the 2031 and 2033 Rugby World Cups, Major League Rugby, the American men’s professional competition, went into crisis with the disqualifications of LA and Austin, the two best teams in its Western Conference.
Sources across the American game said the season-ending playoff ejections were for violations of the rules surrounding the salary cap.
The LA and Austin property did not respond to Guardian requests for comment.
MLR said it had no comments to add to a brief statement on social media, who said: “Due to a breach of league rules, the LA Giltinis have been disqualified from the 2022 Major League Rugby competition.”
The Giltinis, who employ former Australian fly-half Matt Giteau, are in their second season in the league, having won it in their first.
In a similar statement last week, MLR said“Due to a violation of league rules, the Austin Gilgronis have been disqualified from the 2022 playoffs. Championship Series fixtures will be announced as they are determined.
Austin and LA are owned by Adam Gilchrist, an Australian entrepreneur in the personal fitness industry. Both teams are named after cocktails named after Gilchrist.
MLR is in its fifth season, having survived the coronavirus pandemic which cut the third season short. This year, an expansion team in Dallas — which lost all 16 games — took the league to 13 teams. Chicago and St. Louis are widely reported as the next cities for expansion.
The league has already lost one team, with the Colorado Raptors retiring in 2020. Guardian reports have linked the team’s exit from the foundation to political changes surrounding the arrival of powerful owners in Los Angeles, Gilchrist and Nova Scotia. England, Errik Anderson, a biotechnology investor.
The Raptors have changed direction and are now looking to convert athletes from sports like football, basketball and wrestling. The program is in its second year and has sent players to MLR and the United States men’s sevens team.
Control of MLR will be increasingly attractive as two Rugby World Cups in the United States approach and World Rugby is looking to invest in the American game.
In May, when the 2031 men’s and 2033 women’s events were announced in Dublin, Matt McCarthy, a leading American rugby journalist, told the Guardian a “huge and game-changing investment in high schools, colleges, clubs, for men and women, Sevens and 15s” would also “safeguard the future of Major League Rugby as an all-professional men’s competition at 15”.
McCarthy added: “The creation of the professional league in Japan in the years leading up to the 2019 World Cup shows what World Rugby knows has to happen. Now that the World Cups are coming to America, MLR simply cannot be allowed to fail.
Last weekend, amid political uproar even before the decision to evict LA, the final round of the MLR regular season saw Austin beat the Houston SaberCats and LA fall to the champions Seattle Seawolves in 2018 and 2019.
The Guardian understands the decision to disqualify LA was made at a board meeting on Monday evening.
On Tuesday, MLR said, “The Houston SaberCats will now host the Western Conference Finals and play the winner of the Western Conference Eliminator between the Seattle Seawolves and the San Diego Legion.”
In the east, Rugby ATL Atlanta and Rugby New York will contest the eliminator, with the winner advancing to the conference final against the New England Free Jacks.
The MLR Championship game is scheduled for the weekend of June 25-26.