Lacrosse

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Premier Lacrosse League Continues Expansion

1 Jul, 2021

By: Michael Popke

When Major League Lacrosse and the Premier Lacrosse League merged in late 2020 to operate under the “Premier Lacrosse League” moniker, the future of a handful of MLL teams remained uncertain.

As things turned out, the MLL’s Chesapeake Bayhawks, Connecticut Hammerheads, Denver Outlaws, New York Lizards and Philadelphia Barrage ended their runs — though the merger did give the PLL rights to former MLL teams for future expansion considerations. For example, the PLL now includes the former MLL Boston Cannons, rebranded simply as the Cannons Lacrosse Club.

Obviously, the upstart PLL has big things on its mind. Always has and probably always will.

“The PLL represents a different model for lacrosse and perhaps all of professional sports,” noted FiveThirtyEight.comi n March. “It was organized and is operated by the players themselves, who all have a stake in the league, while MLL never allowed its players to unionize. And though the PLL’s consistent TV presence is helping to build the lacrosse audience, the league has focused on social media as its main medium for audience growth.”

Months later, the Premier League’s popularity continues to increase. Now known as the “Premier Lacrosse League powered by Ticketmaster,” the organization recently announced that it has closed an additional round of funding led by Arctos Sports Partners, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Kraft Group, and Brooklyn Nets owner, Alibaba co-founder and return PLL investor Joseph Tsai.

According to a statement from PLL, the league completed its second season in 2020 with increased viewership and sponsorship sales year-over-year. It also ran a month-long, quarantined tournament in Herriman, Utah, with no reports of positive COVID-19 cases. Sports Business Journal recognized the league as the 2020 “Sports Breakthrough of the Year.”

“Our mission is to trailblaze the future of professional sports,” said PLL co-founder and chief executive officer Michael Rabil. “By partnering with industry innovators and leaders such as Arctos, the Krafts, and Joe Tsai, we are continuing to put the company in a strategic position to scale and grow the sport. We are planning to use the funds to further resource our media team and enhance our live-game broadcast experience, build our owned and operated technology, grow our partnerships team, and invest in youth lacrosse by unlocking opportunities for future players.”

Front Office Sports reports that the PLL also has revealed plans for the Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which will induct its inaugural class during its championship weekend in September at Washington, D.C.’s Audi Field.

More evidence of the PLL’s expanding footprint on the sports landscape was the May announcement that Peacock — a streaming service owned and operated by NBCUniversal — is streaming all 44 games of the 2021 PLL season. What’s more, NBC (four games) and NBCSN (17 games) is broadcasting a total of 21 games, marking the most professional lacrosse matches ever on television in a single season. All televised coverage also is streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Meanwhile, lacrosse’s profile keeps getting bigger. World Lacrosse emerged as one of six international sports federations recommendedby the International Olympic Committee for full Olympic recognition. (Other organizations receiving recommendation were the International Cheerleading Union, the International Federation of Icestocksport, the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations, and the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations and the International Sambo Federation (both part of the martial arts world).

In order to move from provisional status to full Olympic recognition, international federations had to demonstrate that they fulfilled all the requested criteria. These include having statutes, practices and activities conforming with the Olympic Charter, as well as proving they have adopted and implemented the World Anti-Doping Code and the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of Manipulation of Competitions.

Additionally, all federations had to show they maintained independence and autonomy in the governance of their sports (in other words, there could only be one governing body responsible for the sport).

Finally, each international federation had to have a minimum of 50 affiliated national federations for summer sports (lacrosse and cheer fall into this category), and 25 affiliated national federations for winter sports, from at least three continents. There also had to be no objections from member federations of any of the international federation associations.

Having cleared those hurdles, the next step in the process is for the IOC to take an official vote to confirm full recognition of these sports (which might come ahead of the Tokyo Olympics). At this rate, lacrosse and cheer conceivably could wind up on the program for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Lacrosse also will be featured at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Ala., next summer.

And just in case you were wondering, the National Lacrosse League (NLL), consisting of teams from both the USA and Canada, doesn’t conflict with the PLL. There is no schedule overlap among the PLL, NLL or the NCAA.

NCAA season generally begins in January or February and finishes in May. The PLL season usually starts in May and finishes in September. In NLL, play typically starts in December and finishes with playoffs in around April.

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