Marcos Galperin, founder and CEO of Mercado Libre, decided to bet on sports. Together with other Argentine businessmen, he purchased the rights to a franchise in Major League Rugby (MLR) and founded the Miami Sharks team exclusively in that region. Not only that, but it struck a deal with Inter Miami CF, the club where Lionel Messi shines, to use its state-of-the-art facilities to train and play at home.
26 September 2023 11.28
With an investment of approximately US$7 million, the owner of the Miami Sharks – Marcos Galperin, founder of Mercado Libre; Ronaldo Strazzolini, chairman of financial services company Magna Capital; and Alejandro Macfarlane, owner of Camuzzi Gas, They are planning to build an academy to promote the development of rugby in the area. The diversity and team values that the sport promotes are key aspects they want to promote. Furthermore, the celebration of the Rugby World Cup in the United States in 2031 represents an opportunity to promote discipline in the country., It is estimated that 1.6 million people play rugby in the United States and this number is continuously increasing. Rugby franchises will begin competing in Major League Rugby (MLR) in the 2024 season, beginning in March.
,Investors saw a league that was emerging, that was growing, and that there was a big market in Miami. This is a great business opportunity because apart from this, there is no rugby franchise in the entire state of Florida.“, notes Mariano Filippini, CEO of the Miami Sharks. Miami Sharks investors are betting on showcasing the values and entertainment of rugby to capture the attention of the American public. They plan to hold a fan fest after the game with sponsors, drinks and player appearances, in an effort to provide a complete spectacle for sports fans. Some of the sponsors accompanying the Sharks are BlackToro Global Investments from Pescarmona; and Valo, headed by businessman Juan Napoli.
The NFL (National Football League) fan market is quite complementary and the audiences are similar. The Super Bowl final is in February and then the rugby tournament starts. The idea is also to be able to attract that audience. “Sports is one of the fastest growing industries and Miami is at a fantastic moment. It’s a huge hub that rugby was missing,” says Filippini.
The MLR League was created from the perspective that rugby is a game that is huge internationally and still has a lot of room to grow in the United States. For example, soccer was huge overseas, not so much in North America. Now this is a success story.
Regarding the composition of the Miami Sharks team, each franchise has a quota of 10 international players as per regulation. Additionally, like in MLS, there is a salary cap that cannot be exceeded. Regarding television, the rights to view the Miami team’s games are currently only viewable in the local market.
With double-digit growth in attendances and viewers since its inception in 2018, Major League Rugby presents a promising platform, including the substantial growth in fan base that has flourished in Florida and Miami in recent years. Galperin has made the strategic decision to invest in the Miami Sharks, highlighting the growing appeal of rugby in this dynamic market. The Argentinian entrepreneur was close to starting his sporting career in rugby. However, as he expressed in various interviews, life put him in front of an important decision when he had to choose between joining the Argentina youth team or going to the University of Pennsylvania to study business. Meanwhile, his story as a player ended the moment he started his path to success as an internet entrepreneur.
Agreement with Inter Miami
The Miami Sharks needed something basic, which was to know where they would play and train. The search had begun even before Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami and after several negotiations Galperin and company reached an agreement with the club’s owners. This is a sponsorship facility agreement and they will work to create a lot of synergy between both the parties. The Florida Blue Training Centre, meters from the DRV PNK Stadium, is a 4,000-square-metre training centre, with six natural grass fields and one synthetic grass field for the development of professional and youth sports. AutoNation Sports Field will be the venue for Miami Sharks games and is expected to have an addition of seats so approximately 5,000 spectators can enjoy the MLR team.
“The idea is to complement each other and work with brands that can connect with each other. They welcomed us very well and the people of Inter Miami want us to perform well so that Miami can continue to grow at the sporting level. We will be the guests when they play at home,” says the Filipino. For his part, xavier ascensiThe Chief Business Officer of Inter Miami CF assures: This is a unique opportunity to collaborate with a new face on the South Florida sports scene. “We are thrilled to provide the Miami Sharks a home and access to the state-of-the-art resources of the Florida Blue Training Center as we come together at a special time for sports fans in South Florida.”
Major League Rugby (MLR)
The American professional rugby league was founded in 2017 with seven teams and the first tournament was played the following year. Its plan is quite similar to that of Major League Soccer (MLS) where Messi’s team plays. The regular season consists of 16 games and requires a salary cap for players. There will be 13 franchises in 2024, including the Miami Sharks. The target is to create around 25 franchises in the future.
Games are broadcast on Fox Sports in addition to other national and local platforms. Some matches are available to stream live on Rugby Network in North America, and all matches are available on Rugby Network for international fans.
Regarding the issue of sponsorship, the topic is similar in some respects. In some categories, sponsors are for the entire league and have exclusivity; While other brands are controlled individually by each team. MLR has a tie-up with the Kappa clothing brand; That is to say, all the teams use Italian brands.
Rugby grows in America
New York has seen a significant surge in the popularity of rugby in recent years. The city is home to several rugby teams and clubs, which have contributed to the creation of a strong community of players and fans. The West Coast of the United States is becoming the epicenter of rugby, and the region’s two major cities, Los Angeles and San Diego, are playing leading roles in the development of the sport. The growth of rugby in New York and Los Angeles, as well as the rise of rugby sevens, highlight the positive impact the sport has had throughout the country. To complete, the Men’s World Cup will be held in that country in 2031 and the Women’s World Cup in 2033.