August 10, 2022
What is the Premier Lacrosse League?
The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) is a men’s professional lacrosse league in North America, composed of 8 teams rostered with the most talented players in the world. For the last two decades, the game of lacrosse has been predominantly operated through the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and Major League Lacrosse (MLL).
The History of the NLL and MLL
The NLL features the indoor version of the sport and has found some stability as the fifth-oldest active professional sports league in the United States. However, indoor lacrosse has never had as large of an impact as outdoor, at least when it comes to television deals and media attention.
The MLL served as the outdoor medium for the sport, which fluctuated between 6 and 10 teams who played anywhere from 10 to 16 games a season. Within the MLL, players developed a growing sentiment that they were underpaid, lacked health benefits and the growth of the game became stagnant.
The PLL Takeover
Three years ago, the most prolific lacrosse player of all time, Paul Rabil, and his serial entrepreneur of a brother, Mike Rabil, envisioned a league where its players had more rights. They proposed a first-of-its-kind equity model for a new lacrosse league where its players could participate in the long-term growth and success of the league. Since players would be personally invested in the league’s growth, it would create an environment in which the leagues’ owners and players were completely aligned. In addition, players would receive a higher season-long, salary-based compensation structure and health care coverage throughout the season.
The Rabil brothers approached the MLL prior to the PLL’s inception in attempts to work together, but reports said the MLL had no interest. The PLL’s inaugural season took place in the summer of 2019 which included a 14-week season and visits to 12 major-market cities across the country. One year later, the PLL and MLL merged to make a joint league where the PLL retained all rights to every former MLL team and player to assist with future expansion considerations. Talk about a quick turnaround!
The fourth and current season of the PLL began this past June. Teams will play 47 games across 13 cities in the United States, culminating in a Championship Weekend on September 17, 2022.
What Makes it Unique
Interestingly, the league has focused on social media as its main medium for audience growth. It approaches a lacrosse-hungry audience with a mission to grow the sport of lacrosse and honor its heritage, inspire inclusivity and engage with its communities.
In the major sports leagues we see today—the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB—an owner (or ownership group) is in charge of its individual franchise and operates independently of other teams in its league. Conversely, the PLL functions as a single entity backed by venture capital. As the first major North American professional team sports league that offers equity to its players, the PLL maintains it’s run by-and-for the players.
The PLL has utilized a touring model approach, which is designed to optimize exposure for the league, and introduce the game’s top players to new markets and cities across the country. In the league’s inaugural season, the average salary of a PLL athlete was $35,000, four times the salary of an MLL player. Currently, that number is closer to $45,000.
The PLL has secured the financial backing of world-class investors and entertainment groups, including The Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency, The Chernin Group and Blum Capital.
When the PLL kicked off in 2019, NBC Sports Group possessed its exclusive media rights. However, that deal expired this past spring when ESPN came into the picture. Ultimately, ESPN and the PLL agreed to a four-year media rights deal and under the terms of the agreement, the PLL games will air exclusively across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN+, with all 47 games available to stream on ESPN+.
Impressively, the PLL has seen 10-12% engagement across its social platforms, as opposed to the 1% or less that other leagues average. For reference, the NFL’s average engagement rate across all 32 teams sits at just 0.22%. You believe in the hype yet!?
ESPN Controls the Destiny
ESPN controls the short term destiny of the PLL. The recent hype throughout the media world has revolved around who will obtain the media rights within The Big Ten. Just yesterday, The Big Ten proposed a seven-year deal worth $380 million per year to broadcast its football and basketball games on ESPN, but ESPN declined.
Admittedly, there is value in ESPN finding new partners and investments because it draws people to its platform. But if ESPN were to acquire The Big Ten, it would have proceeded to dump an insane amount of resources into the league and likely have it centerstage of its platform. A sport like lacrosse–one that is growing and whose long-term success depends on constant exposure–would suffer from another league coming in and taking away more of its press. Now ESPN has to focus on its current investments to keep the hype for its platform. Insert its brand new shiny penny, the game of lacrosse!
The PLL is the future MLS
In 2015, Major League Soccer (MLS) agreed with ESPN, FOX and Univision on a media rights deal worth $90 million. This past June, that deal expired and the MLS agreed to a new broadcast agreement with Apple. The price? 10 years, $2.5 billion. NOW, I am sure you finally believe the hype…
Lacrosse players are in for a BIG payday in the not-so-distant future. And Team ASE is here to ensure you receive every penny you earned and deserve.