Written by Stuart McLennan
In 2013 a young man from Wollongong, Australia with a passion for rugby league landed in New York with a dream to work in major league American sports.
In a fiercely competitive market, Matt Bailey’s CV had no significant industry experience to back up his enthusiasm and ambition.
“I needed something on my resume, so the Brooklyn Kings were born. A blank canvas to show what I’m capable of in the sports business world,” Bailey told Everything Rugby League a few years back.
The newly formed North America Rugby League recently announced a 14 team professional competition that will commence on 19 June this year. It will include the club founded by Bailey and a friend. Ironically he may have created a future major league sports workplace.
Bailey spoke with ERL following the announcement and was understandably upbeat about the latest development for the Kings.
“In the words of Biggie, “it was all a dream!”
“To see the Brooklyn Kings grow from what it was eight years ago to what it is today is pretty incredible.
“This is the greatest investment ever in the domestic competition, and perhaps one of the most significant investments in global rugby league. The opportunity is massive. For example, within a week of the NARL announcement, we signed the first professional contract (Eddy Pettybourne) for an American-based team, creating history.”
Bailey is confident the ex NRL star and recent USA international will make a big impact for the club both in and off the field.
“Eddy is an incredible asset on and off the field, not only as a player, but as a human – he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet, and only wants the best for his teammates and the game.
“He’s invested in the long-term growth of rugby league in America, and off the bat, we knew we wanted to establish a plan for Eddy to be a lifelong King.”
An obvious benefit for the Brooklyn Kings would be to establish a strong rivalry with a newly established New York rugby league club. With his professional background the opportunity is not lost on Bailey.
“Absolutely, this is something we’re excited about and will work closely with New York on. Just look at the subway series between the Yankees and Mets, and the fierce rivalry between Knicks/Nets and Giants/Jets. Rivalries are at the core of sports, and we hope to build something special between Brooklyn and New York.”
With the first game imminent in Brooklyn, Bailey said the team are working 24/7 to get everything right to enter the new competition.
“Both football and business departments are all systems go right now.
“We’re finalizing this season’s training and playing facilities as we speak, which is impacted by COVID as you’d imagine. Long term, there are a bunch of stadiums in the mix such as MCU Park (Coney Island Cyclones) and Randall’s Island. We’re also exploring the build of a stadium as a long-term project, back by private investors. Everything is possible and we’re exploring all paths of setting up camp in our Brooklyn community.
“While we’re competitive on the field, we focus on ourselves off the field, and the vision is certainly to be North America’s most prominent rugby brand. Our leadership team has a rich background of experience from organizations like the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center, Omnicom and CSM Sport & Entertainment, so while we have coaches and athletes spearheading the on-field effort, we have just as strong of a roster off the field running the business.
“We’re excited to continue breaking boundaries and to position our club at the forefront of the global game’s expansion.”
While the NARL announcement has taken many in the sport by surprise, and there are questions yet to be answered, Bailey is confident the competition will be sustainable and had the right support and backing.
“It’ll take a lot of work and a significant investment, but we’re finally on the right track. The right people are coming together at the right time.”