MLR College Draft; Is it binding?

by Travis Normand
May 6, 2020

As I read more about the upcoming MLR College Draft, I can’t help but develop the opinion that it serves only a few basic functions … the lease of which is an actual draft as we currently understand those.

At this time, I fail to see how the MLR Draft would be binding on any player. There is an argument to be made that a player binds himself to the rules of the draft when he signs-up; however, I don’t think that would hold much water if tested. In other words, signing up for the draft is the equivalent of a given college player indicating that they want to play in the MLR and putting themselves on the radar of every MLR team (which isn’t a bad idea if you want an MLR contract). So, if you are a college player, and you want to make an MLR roster, signing up for the draft is probably a good idea. Think of it like being a college recruit and having to send your information to colleges that you hope will recruit you.

I am sure that the MLR will use the collected player information to scout US players. It will also serve as a large database of players and contacts for the MLR.

Most likely, if a player is drafted by a MLR team, they will be given the chance to then try-out for that team, work out with that team, play on a scout, club, or academy side for the team, etc. However, I am skeptical that being drafted will amount to much more than this … and I do not currently believe that being drafted means you will get anything more than an associate contract with an MLR team.

Therefore, if the draft is entirely unbinding, it will potentially benefit those who are drafted but will have no affect on any US college player that goes un-drafted. An un-drafted player will still be able to try and obtain an MLR contract via other means.

Long story short, if you sign-up for the draft (or even if you don’t) and you don’t get drafted but still want to play in the MLR; I still think that at this time, you are free to try-out and sign with any team that will have you. In other words, the draft itself and the failure to get drafted, will not likely act as a barrier to entry for any US college player (and in fact, getting drafted isn’t going to be a guarantee of playing for an MLR team either, like what mosts US sports fans are currently accustomed to with the NFL, etc.)

So why have the MLR Draft at all?

I still think that the MLR Draft has the potential to be a great marketing and PR opportunity for the MLR. The MLR knows that US sports fans understand league drafts, they expect league drafts, and fans like league drafts. Therefore, whether the MLR draft has a binding effect on players is secondary to how much publicity the MLR is hoping to get from hosting a draft. After all, why else would you hold the draft in the middle of June? The answer is because June is a sports dead period and you are hoping it will help with the draft media coverage.

Having said that, the MLR Draft is about one month away, and I would expect to be hearing a lot more about it by this point. Unfortunately, while I am getting news about the draft, it is coming from the same rugby outlets that have been covering rugby since long before the MLR existed (so the MLR draft isn’t generating more coverage in that respect). I have yet to see any other non-rugby sources pick-up the draft news and run with it, but maybe that will change over the next month.

In any event, even if that was not the MLR’s purpose, it is definitely an opportunity for the MLR that I hope doesn’t become a missed-opportunity.

If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, I could easily see the MLR Draft expanding in the future to include a “combine” of registered players, even if just a short one or two-day combine, hosted the weekend of the MLR Championship game (if the calendar allows for that).

With one month to go, we will have to sit-back and wait in order to see what happens next.

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