Major League Rugby continues to get a lot right. However, the league continues to get everything wrong with transaction transparency.
Most teams in MLR have been trickling out signing announcements over the last several weeks. And most of those signings aren’t new developments. Take the Chance Wengliewski trade to RUNY. He announced he was moving on the MLR Kickoff podcast in mid-October, but he declined to say where. Suffice to say, the Roosters wanted to make a big announcement in December. The problem: it keeps the league from being a point of discussion year round.
The league’s transaction announcement logistics leaves even more to be desired. By allowing individual teams to trickle out news as they see fit, usually via social media, it leaves many moves unrecognized. Everyone has heard about the Sam Windsor move. But most moves remain nearly silent.
The solution is simple: create and maintain a centralized, MLR transaction wire. It would be a signal that the league is maturing and values transparency. It wouldn’t be unique. The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS all have well maintained transaction wires. Give credit to those on Twitter attempting to keep up, but when you rely on a few people organizing announcements, the flaws are obvious.
Here’s the less than humble part. Most of the news around any sports league is distributed by third parties. Podcast, blogs, and newspapers keep the wheels churning and fans engaged (something MLR has emphasized on game day and in team cities, but not nationally). The league needs commentators to distribute information, drive debate, and increase interest. Third party commentators, myself included, need that content to generate traffic, revenue, and more interest. Its a symbiotic relationship: third parties need the league as much as the league needs third parties. Transparency puts everyone in a much better position.
Rugby has a history of being silent on wages. Fine. Dumb, but fine for now, especially when salaries are so low. But the hiding of trades/signings/transactions has become a hindrance. As interest in the league increases, the MLR will need to capitalize on staying relevant year round. Instead, they allow the news cycle to die after the Shield is awarded. Instead of engaging new fans with information throughout the summer and fall, the league hopes new fans will still be curious six months later. The deals are being completed. The potential is there. Its past time to capitalize.