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A League of Our Own

The WPL season is halfway through, with the league currently in a two-week summer break. The All Blues and the Gray Wolves top the tables with 6-1 records, separated by point differential, followed by New York, Life West, Beantown, North Shore, and the Amazons in that order. It's been an exciting first half so far, but on the minds of many players, coaches, and fans has been, "Will this be the last season for the WPL?"


In April, the Women’s Elite Rugby (WER) board announced the launch of the first professional

women’s rugby league in the US. WER seeks to be the first professional women’s rugby league that offers players and coaches the opportunity to make a living wage. According to a WER spokesperson, “Upon joining the WER, teams will receive administrative support, funding, and player compensation.” Moreover, the new entity stated, “We engage regularly with staff and club representatives from the WPL about direction of the WER and how the two entities will work together moving forward.”


The WER media rollout was impressive and created an immediate buzz in the rugby

community. In addition to our own trusted outlets, The Rugby Breakdown and Your Scrumhalf Connection, the WER announcement was covered by major news outlets, including Forbes, the Guardian, ESPN, Reddit, and Axios.


The WER board and player representatives have worked to explain the rollout over the next

year and what they currently know about the future connections between WPL and WER.

Understandably, there are still several issues - big and small - to sort out. There’s no doubt the creation of WER will have ripple effects across the rugby club community. WPL teams will all be making decisions about their futures, and as players and coaches begin to move around, it will impact not only WPL but D1 and potentially D2 rugby. All of which is exciting to consider.


We asked the WER board several questions, but they were already ahead of us in creating an FAQ for the community (see below). They’ll continue to update the FAQ over the coming year, working hard as always to keep pace with the many questions in the rugby community. While there are some in the community who are skeptical, the vibe in the community feels charged with the possibility of a professional league of our own.



How did the WER come about?

The WPL seated a Board of Directors in April 2023. The BOD has focused on professionalizing women’s rugby in the United States.


What is the league structure?

WER is a single entity league (also a model followed by the PWHL). This structure allows for rugby to be universally marketed to the consumer rather than each team market doing what they are able to afford.


What is the funding model?

As with any professional league, the WER will look to generate revenue through media deals, corporate sponsorships, merchandise, ticket sales, etc.


What will happen to the WPL?

This conversation is ongoing. There is value in retaining the WPL to provide a continued pathway for players toward professionalization. However, as identified previously, the coast-to-coast pay-to-play model is not sustainable.


How are teams involved with the transition?

In January 2024, a Player’s Committee was formed to liaise between the Board of Directors and the teams during this transition period.


What are the requirements for current WPL teams to join the WER?

The WER is having internal conversations with current WPL teams about standards to join the WER.


Will non-WER WPL teams dissolve back into D1?

If WPL teams decide not or are unable to join WER we will work with them individually to determine how best to support them and the goals of their club.


What will happen to current WPL coaches and staff?

In the next few months, WER staff will engage in conversations with clubs about the transition of coaches and staff to the WER as we build a professional atmosphere for the teams.


How will players be selected to WER teams?

This policy is currently being developed and will have input from the Player’s Committee.


Can international players compete on WER teams?

This policy is currently being developed and will have input from the Player’s Committee.


If current WPL players are selected for a WER team, will they be required to move?

This policy is currently being developed and will have input from the Players Committee. This will also evolve as the league itself evolves from year to year.


If current WPL coaches are hired to coach a WER team, will they be required to move?

This policy is currently being developed and will have input from the Players Committee. This will also evolve as the league itself evolves from year to year.


Is WER sanctioned by USAR?

WER has a positive working relationship with the new leadership of USA Rugby and we look forward to forging new partnerships around WER and the growth of women’s rugby in the US.

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