Paul Rabil’s Premier Lacrosse League Launches

PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL RABIL (@PAULRABIL)

The Premier Lacrosse League, a Paul Rabil-led venture that will feature some of the sport's most prominent players, will debut June 1, 2019. The six-team touring league has a multi-year broadcast agreement with NBC Sports Group.


Paul Rabil has completed an unprecedented pro lacrosse coup.

The Premier Lacrosse League, a Rabil-led venture backed by an impressive group of non-endemic investors and a national multi-year broadcast agreement with NBC Sports Group, officially launched Monday with a league announcement that confirmed many of the details first reported by Bloomberg on Sept. 25 and in a follow-up article Monday morning.

The PLL will debut as a six-team touring league June 1, 2019, descending on 12 major-market cities over the ensuing 14 weeks. Players will earn full-time wages, receive health benefits and have an ownership stake in the league with undisclosed equity compensation.

All PLL games will be presented live by NBC Sports Group, including two games on NBC and 17 games on NBC Sports. The rest of the games will be available on NBC Sports Gold, a subscription over-the-top service. The PLL championship game in September is one of the games that will be broadcast on NBC’s flagship — with the potential to reach nearly 120 million homes.

In support of its launch, the PLL has secured the financial backing of world-class investors and entertainment groups, including The Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), The Chernin Group and Blum Capital. Other investors named in the Bloomberg report include lacrosse-turned-football star Chris Hogan, as well as finance industry heavyweights Drew McKnight and Sol Kumin, who played the sport collegiately at Virginia and Johns Hopkins, respectively. CAA co-head Michael Levine played lacrosse at Cornell.

“We’re building a professional sports league that lacrosse deserves,” Rabil said in the announcement.

Rabil, reached separately by US Lacrosse Magazine, said the PLL is finalizing player contracts. The league’s haul, he said, includes 86 former college All-Americans, 25 current or former members of the U.S. national team, 10 Tewaaraton Award winners and nine professional lacrosse MVPs.

The following list appeared on the PLL’s newly launched website premierlacrosseleague.com.

Among the most notable names are Trevor Baptiste, Peter Baum, Jake Bernhardt, Ryan Brown, Connor Buczek, Josh Byrne, Connor Cannizzaro, Mike Chanenchuk, Chris Cloutier, Will Manny, Kieran McArdle, Brodie Merrill, Dylan Molloy, Tim Muller, Sergio Perkovic, Ned Crotty, Matt Danowski, Curtis Dickson, Matt Dunn, Tucker Durkin, Mike Ehrhardt, Connor Fields, John Galloway, Adam Ghitelman, Justin Guterding, Kyle Harrison, Kyle Hartzell, Marcus Holman, Myles Jones, Matt Kavanagh, Connor Kelly, Jack Kelly, Scott Ratliff, Kevin Rice, Joey Sankey, Tom Schreiber, Drew Snider, Joel Tinney, Joe Walters, Joel White and Jordan Wolf.

Not to mention Rabil himself.

Major League Lacrosse, which since its inception in 2001 has called itself “the premier professional outdoor lacrosse league,” has made several changes in the offseason to make it a more attractive option for players, expanding active rosters and raising the salary cap. But those moves appear to have fallen short in the effort to retain marquee talent, with many former MLL stars missing from league’s list of players under contract for the 2019 season.

“For lacrosse players graduating from the top institutions, competing for national championships and being center stage on national television, the sharp decline of the professional lacrosse ecosystem has been the norm,” Rabil said. “I’ve always wanted to challenge that, first as a player and now as an operator.”







Rabil, the all-time leading scorer in MLL history and two-time league MVP, will play in the PLL while also serving as its chief strategy officer. His brother and business partner, Mike, is the CEO.

Kyle Harrison, Rabil’s former Johns Hopkins and U.S. teammate, and Tom Schreiber, the two-time MLL MVP and hero of Team USA’s gold medal victory over Canada this summer, also will have dual roles on the field and in the front office — Harrison as the director of player relations and Schreiber as a financial analyst.

“This is a revolutionary model, which will place the PLL at the forefront of the next evolution in professional team sports,” Harrison said. “What Mike and Paul have established with this league is going to have a tremendous impact on the ability for players to be rewarded for the sport they love, as well as the overall continued development of the game and professional sports as a whole.”

“I’ve been around lacrosse since I was a kid, and it’s exciting to build the future of the sport with my fellow players,” Schreiber said. “Fans will be able to experience the speed and nuance of the sport by attending a full weekend of games and watching a world class broadcast on TV. It's humbling to be part of this movement, and I can’t wait for people to see what the PLL is all about.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The PLL is the first North American professional team sports league that offers equity to the players.

Harrison was one of the founders of the LXM Pro Tour, which staged 23 showcase events in emerging lacrosse markets from 2010-2014. Unlike LXM, the PLL will have a traditional season format, including an all-star game and postseason, with six independently managed teams vying for a championship.

But the touring model does offer more opportunities for innovation surrounding the fan experience. Rabil likened it to a “final four on wheels,” bottling the fanfare normally reserved for NCAA championship weekend and delivering it around the country with the best players the sport has to offer.

Each PLL weekend will feature all six teams at the same site for three games in two days. Most of the games will be played in Major League Soccer venues.

The NBC broadcasts will utilize seven to 10 cameras with multiple high-resolution angles and slow-motion capabilities, Rabil said, far exceeding what lacrosse fans have come to expect while watching the sport on TV. Sideline interviews, helmet cams, speed guns on the field to measure shot velocity in real time, different color palettes for the ball — these are all considerations as part of the PLL’s plan to innovate the sport “on site and on screen,” Rabil said.

“This is a complete and immersive way to capture the passion and excitement of the lacrosse community and sports fans everywhere,” Mike Rabil said in the announcement. “Lacrosse is about to get a league befitting of the rabid enthusiasm the sport has always enjoyed.”

Check back to uslaxmagazine.com for more on this developing story.

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