North America’s Major League Rugby (MLR) has entered into a joint partnership with UK-based sports equipment manufacturer Gilbert and sports technology and data science firm Sportable.
The joint agreement, unveiled today, will see the two brands integrate the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Rugby ball into MLR from the start of the 2024 campaign.
Sportable and Gilbert, MLR has said, are looking to “provide MLR coaches, players, and viewers with the data and insights needed to elevate the tournament to the next level.”
The ball will provide real-time information around various data points, including speed and distance traveled, as well as “unique perspectives that will enhance media and broadcast coverage.”
Nic Benson, MLR’s chief executive, has said: “The Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball will provide unparalleled data findings in real time to deliver to our fans new engaging insights on the game while holding future potential to enhance team training and referee assessments. We are thrilled that Major League Rugby is at the forefront of this movement.”
Last week, a strategic partnership between MLR, USA Rugby, and World Rugby was unveiled, through which a new MLR expansion club in Charlotte, North Carolina, named Anthem Rugby Carolina, is being launched.
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Last November, meanwhile, MLR announced Italian sportswear brand Kappa as its official kit partner in a three-year deal.
Richard Gray, chief executive at Gilbert Rugby Commercial, added: “Having been working exclusively with Sportable as our technology partners for over five years in the development of this revolutionary new ball, we are delighted that the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball has now been chosen to feature in Major League Rugby.”
The Smart Rugby Ball, developed in partnership with sports equipment brand Gilbert, was introduced in English rugby union in 2022 and has since partnered with governing bodies and competitions including Rugby Australia and Six Nations Rugby (that deal also includes the Autumn Internationals).
On that front, Dugald Macdonald, chief executive at Sportable, commented: “Having successfully introduced the Smart Ball in leading leagues and tournaments around the world, it's the right time for MLR and Sportable to join forces to bring new insights to such a data-hungry fan base in the US.”
The seventh season of the 13-team MLR will begin on March 2 and conclude on June 29.