Major League Rugby (MLR) has lost another franchise ahead of its 2024 season as the New York Ironworks announced it will be withdrawing from the league.
Bolton Equities, the owner of the team, announced the team’s departure after it stated it would no longer continue to fund operations.
New York Ironworks leaving the MLR is the latest blow to the American rugby league as the Toronto Arrows also announced it will no longer compete in the league, citing similar reasons to Ironworks’ ownership.
MLR Chief Executive, Nic Benson, stated: “While this is unfortunate news, Major League Rugby remains strong, and the owners across the league are committed to success heading into 2024 and beyond,’ Benson stated.
“Major League Rugby is embarking on its own positive evolution as a professional sports league. We feel for those impacted by New York’s decision to withdraw, knowing it was a painful and difficult one to make.”
Only two years removed from winning the MLR Championship in 2022, the Ironworks’ owners stated that the failure to secure fresh investment in the team contributed towards the collapse of the franchise.
This is a similar sentiment from the Toronto Arrows. The team’s owner, Bill Webb, passed away last summer with the Arrows’ General Manager, Tim Matthews, acknowledging that his death was “too great of a challenge” for the franchise to continue.
With 11 franchises remaining in the MLR for the 2024 season, the league has hit a roadblock in its ability to grow the league’s brand and increase fan engagement in the sport across North America, which is dominated by football, basketball, ice hockey, etc.
Despite this latest setback, Benson is optimistic about the league’s trajectory, stating that the work already done to increase the MLR’s visibility will lead the way for when North America hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2031.
He said: “But we also remain confident in the course the league and its owners have charted, leading the way for the success of the sport in advance of North America hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031. We remain committed to growth and look forward to a thrilling 2024 season.”