The Rugby Business Network Sees Rapid Growth in the U.S.

Colm Hannon

By Colm Hannon | July 26, 2016

The Rugby Business Network (RBN) has come a long way in the six years since I started it here in the U.K., and I continue to be amazed by its growth. What’s particularly pleasing is the fact that the original sentiment behind the network has not been diluted, despite hundreds of volunteers running events in over sixty cities around the world.

I started the RBN because, as a semi-professional player, I spent years around rugby clubs that had large numbers of successful and influential business people amongst their players and supporters, yet sponsors would come and go. It seemed odd that a game populated by such people and so well known for the kinds of values that brands strive to ally themselves with would often struggle financially.

It became obvious that a focus was needed to mobilize the goodwill towards the game amongst those who were best placed to help it: the business community. If we could somehow help businesses through rugby then, surely, businesses would help rugby.

By connecting strategic-level businesspeople through their shared love of our sport, we helped to justify their long-term investment into the game, from grass-roots level to international. We now have a not-for-profit network running a huge program of largely free events around the world, and, through the support of some loyal partners, we manage to support numerous rugby charities and run our own Life After Rugby program, which helps ex-players make the transition from sport to business.

Recently, we have enjoyed a rapid expansion across the pond, thanks in no small part to the work of our key U.S. partner, Penn Mutual. Through several sponsorships and programs, including The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, Penn Mutual is college rugby’s biggest supporter and a true rugby brand. The Penn Mutual staff are helping to organize and market RBN events, and they have already hosted several at various Penn Mutual offices around the country.

With the help of Penn Mutual, the RBN will also be doing everything it can to help rugby charities and grass-roots initiatives. Plans are already being formulated with USA Rugby Trust and Play Rugby USA.

With university graduates making up 95 percent of the adult rugby-playing population, and the sport’s ethos resonating with the increasingly less money-orientated ‘Millennial’ age group, it’s clear that rugby and business are never better matched than Stateside.

In case anyone has any doubt about America’s real rugby credentials, the following facts may add clarity: the U.S. has more rugby clubs (2,588) than any other country, and it has the fourth highest number of adult male players and the second highest number of adult females. Added to this is the launch of its first professional league, just one year after the U.S. men’s team won the London leg of the Sevens World Series, announcing themselves as true Olympic contenders. The giant is no longer sleeping.

In true RBN style, our members and partners have not looked to profit simply by aligning themselves with a game on the up, and the benefits have flowed both ways. Mike Friday and his USA Sevens team underwent psychometric testing with our long-time supporter Thomas International, and RBN San Diego are helping the players with work placements.

Additionally, business and playing members will soon benefit from the ProFinda platform that will enable them to find exactly the people they need to meet and provide forums specific to the narrowest professional fields. Working alongside our events, it will offer an incredibly powerful networking tool.

It’s been a fascinating and rewarding process for us, learning about things from rugby’s first steps as a professional sport in the USA to the different ways the network needs to operate in places as far apart as New York and California.

With so many wonderful people already involved and a supporter as resourceful and passionate as Penn Mutual, we have great hope for what the network might achieve in the U.S. and look forward to being a part of it.


This material is for informational use only. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Penn Mutual or any of its affiliates. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and it is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy.

1 Comment

  • as a former club side and select side fullback I am proud to be connected to a leader like Penn Mutual who is such a great supporter of the sport. Rugby is a unique game of skills and gamesmanship! Life after Rugby is awesome and it is good to see more colleges participating in the sport.

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