US Pro Rugby league on the verge of closing down? Schoeninger denies reports

The rift between the league and USA Rugby has nearly forced termination of player contracts.

Mils Muliaina
File photo of San Franciso Rush's Mils Muliaina (L) Reuters

After hosting the highly successful inaugural edition of United States' first professional rugby league in 2016, US Pro Rugby is facing the risk of closing down.

The league's president Doug Schoeninger, in a letter, reported by Rugby Today, told the players that their contracts were to be terminated if the sport's governing body, USA Rugby does not sufficiently protect the sufficiently protect the league's exclusive sanctioning rights.

The inaugural season of Pro Rugby kicked off in April was played by five teams - Ohio Aviators, Sacramento Express, San Diego Breakers, San Francisco Rush and Denver Stampede - and had top stars of the likes of former All Black fullback Mils Muliaina and Italy's Mirco Bergamasco.

South African star Pedrie Wannenburg-led Denver pipped Ohia by a point to win the title. While extending the league's presence to Chicago, New York and Boston were reportedly being planned, it was reportedly announced last week that San Francisco Rush will no longer be part of the competition due to unavailability of suitable venues.

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Despite the crisis situation, Schoeninger has stressed that league is not "closing down". The league owner revealed in the letter that they were trying to resolve the issues with USA Rugby but no assurances can be given to the players about it.

"We have been having serious issues with the cooperation and the enforcement of our agreement with USA Rugby. We have been actively trying to resolve our issues with USA Rugby for over four months and, unfortunately, it appears that USA Rugby will not honor the commitments they made to us," Schoeninger wrote in the letter.

"We are hopeful, but with no assurances, that we will be able to resolve all issues with USA Rugby prior to end of the termination clause period."

Also, payments that were supposed to be paid for the players were delayed but Schoeninger wrote that it would be paid in the coming week. However, USA Rugby, in an official statement, denied the allegations made by the league owner and said it was saddened to know about the possible contract termination.

However, Pro Rugby league's posts on its Facebook page hinted that the league had no intentions of closing down but is planning for the future.