- The US Major League Rugby circuit (MLR) is announcing a partnership deal with data provider Genius Sports.
- The goal is to help the professional rugby league to increase ‘its presence in sportsbooks around the globe’.
- The 12 team MLR began play in 2018 but were unable to complete their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the more interesting by-products of sports betting’s growth in the United States has been the interest in what would typically be considered ‘niche’ sports by both players and bookmakers. For their part, there are plenty of these lower profile sports that recognize that betting can be a means with which to expand the size and scope of their presence in the media and consumer ecosystem. That’s what is behind the announcement that Major League Rugby (MLR), the top North American organization in the sport, is partnering with Genius Sports to drive increased betting interest.
Rugby is a huge spectator sport in much of the world–particularly in Europe and Australia–but not in the United States. There’s a good many people that play and enjoy the sport as athletes but as a spectator sport rugby is well below soccer in the hierarchy of popularity. Major League Rugby was founded in 2018, initially with seven teams. They are now in the midst of their 2021 season with 12 teams. The league was unable to compete in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since they launched, the level of play has improved and they’ve got increased TV coverage through the CBS Sports Network, FoxSports 1, FoxSports 2 as well as their own ‘OTT’ streaming platform called The Rugby Network. There are 18 weeks of regular season play which will be followed by finals in the Eastern and Western Conference. The playoffs will culminate in the league Championship Final on August 1.
League management was no doubt aware of the popularity of rugby betting in many parts of the world and is seeking to bring that component to the US game. That’s why they’ve announced an exclusive sports betting data and betting streaming partnership with Genius Sports. GSG now has the exclusive rights to ‘capture, manage and distribute the League’s official data with sportsbooks across North America and worldwide’. In addition, GSG facilitates the distribution of streaming coverage via sportsbooks for any game not televised elsewhere.
MLR Commissioner George Killebrew is confident in Genius Sport’s ability to help grow and maintain the integrity of the sport:
“We know there is interest in regulated betting on our matches and we have to take proactive measures to safeguard the integrity and transparency of our events. We have the utmost confidence in Genius Sports Group to manage our data and deliver it to their sportsbook partners, further engaging all fans, old and new.”
Genius Sports Group CEO Mark Locke clearly did his homework about rugby before giving this quote:
“With former England captain Chris Robshaw and Wallabies legend Adam Ashley-Cooper amongst the confirmed players for the upcoming season, MLR is rapidly establishing itself as a prominent league for rugby fans in North America and globally. Our technology, real-time distribution and leading network of sportsbook partners will help to enhance engagement and connect MLR with new audiences worldwide.”
Sports betting data has become a highly sought after asset among companies as well as a revenue stream for leagues. In the US, Genius Sports and Sportradar are the big players though both companies have a large presence internationally.