It has been announced that rugby union side London Irish will play an Aviva Premiership fixture in the USA. Their opponents will be the current league champions, Saracens, and will be the first time the Premiership has moved outside of the UK.
New York's Red Bull Arena will host the match, a 25,000 capacity stadium home to the MLS franchise New York Red Bulls, previously the home of Arsenal and Barcelona superstar, Thierry Henry.
The announcement comes on the back of a successfully run Rugby World Cup in England as the Premiership looks to build on the increasing global interest in the game. The game will be held on the 12th of March, only 5 days prior to St Patrick's day, something heavily celebrated by New York's large Irish population.
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This move replicates similar marketing strategies by America's National Football League. The NFL regularly play matches at Wembley each season to maximise interest in England and across Europe. In 2014, three NFL games took place at Wembley, creating $32 million in revenue. The Aviva Premiership will also be hoping for financial gain from their venture across the pond, targeting a country where rugby union is currently the fastest-growing team sport.
New York this week hosted its first ever major cricket event at Citi Field. The event was part of an inaugural Cricket All Stars Series, which will also take place in Los Angeles and Houston.
Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar created the exhibition series and invited legends of the game to play alongside them. This is a first attempt by cricket to try and capitalise on an American market, especially focused on the South-Asian American population, many of whom turned out in the opening match to see their heroes, like Tendulkar and former Pakistani pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
However, Rugby Union has beaten a number of other sports to the finishing line, most notably, football. The Barclays Premier League have previously discussed playing a '39th' league game in the US to take advantage of the growing interest for the game, which fans in England had resisted. Spanish football president, Javier Tebas has suggested that in the near future Copa Del Rey and even La Liga games may move take place across the world to develop markets across America, Asia and Africa.
We will wait and see what the results of this experiment are because, if it proves to be a success, it will surely not be long before football takes another step to playing games abroad.
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