Rugby Premier League: How actor Rahul Bose is close to achieving a pet project
A six-team franchise league of Sevens rugby will kick off in September this year
The burgeoning franchise sports leagues in India owe a fair bit to Bollywood actors as owners or promoters of teams, but none possibly belong to the other side of the fence like Rahul Bose. The critically acclaimed actor, a former rugby international and now President of Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU), is close to realising his dream of launching a franchise league of Sevens rugby in September this year.
Branded as Rugby Premier League (RPL), it will have six teams in the inaugural season – with each of them likely to showcase some of the leading overseas Rugby Sevens professionals alongwith Indian players. IRFU will be partnered by Baseline Ventures India Pvt Limited, a major player in sports marketing, who has the experience of running Pro Volleyball League.
Bose, who has been heading IRFU from 2021, said in a statement: “This is a landmark moment for India and Indian Rugby. Rugby is one of the biggest sports globally and India has been making steady progress in the sport for the last few years. This strengthened our belief that now is the right time for us to take the leap towards starting a professional league in India.
‘’We are confident that the RPL will be a gamechanger for Indian Rugby by providing our players a platform to rub shoulders with some of the best in the world and showcase their talent. The RPL will be a world class product,” he added.
A national team star for 11 years, the actor had hung up the boots in 2009 but pursued the mission of introducing young children to the game – particularly from underprivileged communities. Bose was more than hands-on during the Indian women team’s preparation for the Hangzhou Asian Games last year, where the girls didn’t quite find their feet and ended seventh.
It had been a long cherished dream for him to see a franchise league taking shape as the sport has been earning a bigger acceptance ever since Sevens rugby made it’s debut as an Olympic sport in Rio 2016 in both men and women’s categories. In an interview in early 2023, Bose – who has the rugby stadium in Odisha named after him, said: ‘’We are definitely thinking about it (franchise league) and we will reveal everything to the media six months from now.’’
Meanwhile, Tuhin Mishra, Managing Director of Baseline said the teams will be city-based entities and the owners will be firmed up through individual approaches soon rather than any bids.
“We at Baseline are extremely delighted to partner with Rugby India & play a part in developing the first franchise-based rugby league. Rugby is a global sport and it has all the elements of being a great TV & on ground sport with its fast paced, action-oriented style of play with points scored every other minute,” Mishra added.
Asked about the marketing potential of the league can be problematic for a sport which is truly global but played only in certain pockets in the country, he said: ‘’While it’s true that the sport enjoys a heritage in cities like Mumbai or Kolkata, a survey says that rugby is now being played in around 300-plus districts in the country. More details about RPL will emerge in the coming months.’’