From Southeastern Rugby League LLC
Due to the increased awareness of Rugby League, that they directly attribute to the fans, supporters and sponsors of the Jacksonville Axemen, the interest in the sport has grown in the southern region. A combination of the “Minor League” teams that have been operated throughout Florida over the past three years, the constant success of the Axemen, and international events that we have hosted in Jacksonville, have led to this initiative. We have no doubts that every person or business, which supported any of our teams or events, can proudly stake claim to being apart of the biggest advancement of Rugby League in the Southeastern USA.
SERL is very excited to announce that we have agreed to partner with various individuals and groups, who have identified themselves as having the desire, ability and business plan to create Rugby League teams in their own cities. We consider it a great honor to be able to assist in the application to the USA Rugby League (USARL) for full member teams to be operated in the following areas: Tampa, FL, Central Florida (Combined Daytona/Orlando), and Atlanta, GA.
Each of the three teams are finalizing their applications to the USARL, and SERL is preparing an application to have all four teams become known as the Southeastern Conference starting in the upcoming 2014 season. We would also like to confirm that an additional partnership for the Atlanta team has been developed with one of the most iconic Professional Rugby League teams in the World. An announcement from that team is expected within a few days.
Peter Illfield (USARL Chairman) has congratulated SERL on their continued efforts to focus on the growth and development of the sport in the region, and was equally excited at this announcement. “The professional operation of the Jacksonville Axemen by Southeastern Rugby League has seen them become the consistent benchmark and flagship team in the USA. Based on them taking that style of operation and vision with them into these new partnerships, the potential for Rugby League in the Southeast region is limitless. This is one of the most exciting announcements to ever happen for our sport in the USA.”
In achieving this milestone we would like to say a sincere thank you to every person who has attended an Axemen game or one of our many international events. This is also extended to those international fans who have purchased merchandise and thus supported our vision. We are equally grateful to many international teams from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and Jamaica who visited Jacksonville over the years. Thanks as well to all the media that has covered any of our past events, and to the volunteer staff and officials who make our teams safe every week. Thank you to our sponsors, past and present, big and small, as well our fellow USARL clubs, USARL Executives and all the players who commit to playing Rugby League, “The Greatest Game of All”.
In an effort to better explain the importance of this announcement we have listed some of the questions that have been asked during this process, and our answers.
WHO ARE THE NEW PARTNERS – With the operation of the Minor League teams that we have run in Tampa, Daytona and Orlando over the last three years, some individuals have expressed an interest in progressing the idea of creating full member teams. When we contacted a group in Atlanta who had shown interest, the vision of assisting with development as a partner came to fruition based on redirection of funding for all teams on travel needs, to regional growth needs.
Tampa - will be led by Billy Nielson and other members who have a connection with the Tampa Krewe Union team, and we hope the future sees a combined force of both Rugby codes to progress together in the Tampa area. Billy has also been involved with the Jacksonville Axemen operations and was responsible for the entry of the Tampa Inferno minor league team in 2014. The player pool that is available in the Tampa area, along with the number of expatriates from Rugby playing nations, will make the Tampa team very competitive. We must also mention that early in the Axemen operations British expatriate, Steve Towell, had gained great interest with his Bradenton Bulldogs team located just South of Tampa, and we hope this allow some of those participants to return to the sport.
Central Florida – this team will combine the progress of the Daytona Gearheads and Orlando Adrenalin minor league teams. The longest serving Axemen player, Craig Howitt, along with other former Axemen players from central Florida have long wanted a chance to run a top tier team in the area. Kenny Britt has also committed to assist in the development and operations of the team. With their combined leadership, the addition of former Axemen players who live in the area, that include Gaz Walker, Bart Longchamp, Jay Mombu, along with many from the minor league teams, they will come out as an instant favorite. It will also make for some “interesting” match ups on the field when former teammates are pit against one another in serious conference and national title battles.
Atlanta – After visits to the Atlanta by Drew Slover and Spinner Howland that allowed meeting with key members of the Atlanta Renegades Rugby Union organization, along with some key individuals who had area interest, an operations group has been formed. The Atlanta team will draw on a variety of personnel for on and off field success. Greg Frost, who is a young Australian business man living in the area will help operate the team as well as join the playing ranks. He will be joined on the field by members of the highly successful Renegades Union team, and we imagine that members of other areas teams will soon show an interest in the May training camp. There are also a number of Universities in the region who have very successful Rugby programs underway. The Atlanta Rugby League team will be open to all athletes from any area Rugby team, as well as those with other sporting backgrounds. There is also an announcement coming soon about a partnership between the Atlanta team and one of the most iconic professional Rugby League Team in the world.
Team Names and Venues will be announced as soon as they are confirmed. We are waiting on a variety of venue details, sponsor confirmations and other items before releasing all information.
WHY THE CONFERENCE VISION – All developing sports have finances as one of their largest challenges, and the largest budget item for teams operating over a large geographical area is travel. This is not only for Axemen operations having to fly to all away games, but also for all USARL teams that are required to travel to Jacksonville during the regular season, and potentially again during playoffs. At an average cost of $7,500 per game when travel, accommodation, meals, etc, are considered, the creation of a conference system will allow for the “re-allocation” of those funds to more local development goals. With five trips per year, SERL can now direct more assets to local Jacksonville progress, and also assist the new partners in the start up and operation of their teams. It will also allow for all other teams within the USARL to free up 1000’s of combined dollars, and apply them to the growth of their own teams and regions. Conference play will also spark the creation of some great new rivalries, as well as the creation of a conference Board of Directors, who can work together for overall regional growth of the sport. It is also important to recognize that the conference system is something very familiar in American sports, and it will create an additional Conference Championship for all teams, while they are competing for the National Championship. It creates potential conference wide sponsorship to increase revenue streams, and it allows for the consolidation of certain items such as the creation and online sale of merchandise in an effort to stop duplication of tasks, on already limited resources. All of the potential benefits allow for faster, overall development and growth.
HOW WILL IT WORK – The four teams in the Southeastern Conference will play a home and away schedule to determine a 1 through 4 seeding by the end of the regular season. Then with single elimination conference playoff games (1 v 4 and 2 v 3) two teams will advance to the Conference Championship game. The winner of that game will progress to the overall USARL National Championship playoff series. With final USARL 2014 competition structure to be finalized, there may also be a need for the selection of a “Wildcard” team for the playoffs that may allow for further teams to enter into national playoff contention.
WHERE WILL THEY PLAY – We are in the final stages of confirming the venue for each team. Each venue will meet the minimum standards for USARL requirements that provide a safe and comfortable environment for both players and fans. Things such as the ability for on-site food and beverage sales, ample seating and the basic amenities for fans and team operations, are all considered. In addition to those standards, we are also considering the ability of the venue to provide ample opportunity for the advertising and promotion of sponsor materials during game day operations. These include such things as suitable areas for visual advertising banners, access to public address system for sponsor and game day announcements and internet connection to consider live streaming of games. All items for the overall ability to display a professional approach to both the integrity of the game, our commitment to provide value to fans, as well as exceeding the advertising and marketing expectations of our sponsors. We will confirm venues as soon as each has a signed contract.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS A FAN– As we announce further details for each team, we encourage all fans and supporters to assist us in promoting the upcoming season and to be apart of the inaugural season for Rugby League across the Southeastern region, and the USARL in general. Websites, social media accounts, venues, tickets and other action items are all in the works and we are committed to release as soon as each is confirmed.
WHAT CAN I DO AS A POTENTIAL SPONSOR – Until further notice, all sponsor questions should be directed to either Drew Slover (email@example.com) OR Spinner Howland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are sourcing all levels of sponsorship for teams in ALL FOUR CITES and are also excited for potential discussion for conference wide partnerships that will cover such a large geographical market.
WHAT DO I DO IF I WANT TO PLAY OR ASSIST WITH A TEAM – For now send player/assistant enquiries to Spinner Howland (email@example.com) and direct contact will be confirmed with the correct team partner.
WHAT IF I HAVE A VISION OF CREATING A TEAM – You are invited to apply from any part of the country to the USARL (via www.usarl.com) to discuss expansion plans. SERL is of course hoping this progress ignites further efforts in the expansion of the “Minor League” model for anyone with the vision of progressing a pathway to full USARL member team in the Southeast Region.
Of course all teams from around the USA are welcome to some of the basic marketing materials that have been created by Slover Consulting (www.sloverconsulting.com). Axemen Co-owner Drew Slover, who owns and operates Slover Consulting, has created some incredible sponsor proposal packets, and other advantageous tools for those wishing to consider starting a team(s) in their area.
SERL is always willing to share the model for the Axemen and/or the Minor League Framework with anyone who has a desire to grow Rugby League in the USA.
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