New York to host London Irish's Aviva Premiership clash with Saracens
Published 27/10/2015 | 11:47
London Irish will play their Aviva Premiership home game against Saracens this season in New York.
Irish and Premiership Rugby have announced a ground-breaking move that will see Irish tackle reigning Premiership champions Saracens at the 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena - home of Major League Soccer team New York Red Bulls - on March 12 next year.
It is the first Premiership fixture to be played overseas, and heads to the United States, a country where rugby union is currently the fastest-growing team sport.
A concept of playing the so-called "39th game" outside of England appeared to be an option for Premier League soccer in England seven years ago, but opposition from supporters proved a key contributory factor behind it never happening.
Irish, though, have no doubt that the venture will be a success, with the Premiership fixture taking place just five days before St Patrick's Day and New York having a considerable Irish population.
"This is an enormous opportunity for London Irish and a chance for our club to gain exposure in one of the biggest sporting cities in the world," Irish chief executive Bob Casey said.
"The New York region has a significant Irish community and is renowned for its annual St Patrick's Day Parade, so it's the perfect time for our club to venture into this market.
"Rugby is set for an exciting time with Rugby World Cup 2015 reaching its final stages, the inclusion of sevens in the 2016 Olympic Games, and now the first-ever Aviva Premiership fixture in the USA.
"We are well-placed to capitalise on these exceptional opportunities to create a lasting legacy for both rugby and London Irish.
"We intend to continue to be at the forefront of the development of the game in the USA."
Tickets for the game will go on general sale later this week, while Irish are currently exploring supporter travel packages combining flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Packages will be available with and without match tickets.
The game falls during a busy period in the international and domestic calendar.
England play Wales at Twickenham in the RBS 6 Nations Championship on March 12 - Ireland also face Italy that day - while Irish take on Bath the previous weekend, when Saracens entertain Northampton.
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty added: "This is a significant day in the history of Premiership Rugby, and one that has taken a number of years and a lot of hard work to bring to fruition.
"Premiership Rugby is the most competitive league in world rugby with a fast-growing following outside England, and we are delighted to stage a competitive match in the USA.
"There are ambitious plans to grow the game in the States, and this is the latest stage in that strategy.
"I would like to thank both London Irish for their support and vision in making this bold step, as well as Saracens and our partners - The Legacy Agency Inc and USA Rugby.
"We firmly believe this will be a great success and will showcase live Aviva Premiership Rugby to a new audience."
And USA Rugby chief executive, the former Wasps and England scrum-half Nigel Melville, said: "We are looking forward to bringing these two world-class clubs to the New York area for what will be a memorable match-up.
"Our sport continues to grow in the United States, and we believe this event will be another big step forward in the growth of the game."