When you decided to start your own league, where did that idea come from? What was the origin story?
Paul Rabil: I believe any entrepreneur can identify with either realizing a problem or feeling passionate about solving for something. You're always going to hit a crossroads where there's no one toe in the water first. You’re either going all in or moving onto another project.
For us, our vision has always been around how we see so much potential in professional lacrosse and what [this league] can do to the entire industry, which has been growing over the last 15 years. We think we're going to be recognized by the IOC [as an official Olympic sport] in the coming year but we haven't been able to solve it professionally. If you look at other pro sports leagues, what unlocks potential around the commercial viability of its players. If that visibility brings in new participants and new eyeballs, you unlock distribution.
Something interesting that PLL is doing is going with a tour-based model like the Big 3 or WWE, rather than having teams fixed in various cities. How did you decide to do it that way?
Rabil: We're going to be the first major team sports league that does a tour based in the U.S. The WWE, NASCAR, UFC. World Surf League, PBR, the Dew Tour, Street League Skateboarding—these are all major sports businesses. The PGA Tour brings all the best players in the world into one market at a time. That's always been really attractive to me as a sports consumer and to my brother as my co-founder on this business. He's the CEO of POL. There's something attractive when you look at the traditional structure of a team sports league, it's city-based.
Our narrative is two-fold. For one, lacrosse is growing. But if you’re a niche sport, you're typically in fewer than ten markets—MLL is in nine. What we believe is that regionality is creating more distance from other established and emerging markets all over the country. If we go tour-based, you are bringing the best product and the best players in the world to all of the emerging and established areas in the U.S. That's important.
The second thing has to do with understanding the resources at your disposal. If you look at the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, the NHL, these are in 25, 30-plus markets. They really have ubiquity across the U.S. and they're city-based, and their ownership groups either own the arena or own the stadium. They own the venue, which gives them ancillary revenue streams from parking to concessions. They get to book their schedules. When you talk about major team sports leagues, it's about the best players, the highest competition and your media strategy. How are you being distributed?