The Premier Lacrosse League is preparing to launch in June, riding on a recent round of investments.
The PLL’s Series A round of investment includes Alibaba Group co-founder and Brooklyn Nets investor Joe Tsai. The league was founded by brothers Paul and Michael Rabil, who are betting their experience in sports and business — and a demand for sports content — will help the league succeed.
Still, launching a new sports league isn’t easy, said Michael Rabil, the acting CEO of the PLL.
“This is the first time I’ve done it, but any new business isn’t easy to launch,” Rabil said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a gym in Franklin, New Hampshire or a nationwide lacrosse league. There’s so many small nuances and details. A sports league is the heaviest lift I’ve ever done, but we’re pleased how we’ve been received.”
Ahead of its launch slated for June 1, the PLL is seeing the details coming together quickly. The six-team league will be a traveling league, touring through 12 major markets. The cities and teams are to be announced in the coming weeks, Rabil said. The league has announced its inaugural weekend site in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. New York’s Red Bull Arena was announced as the second weekend’s tour stop and as a playoff site in September.
“The announcement calendars are chock full,” he said. In addition, the league will reveal team logos on Tuesday.
Team Logos Dropping Tomorrow 🚨
Announcement happening on YouTube: https://t.co/pBK1rlziUT
— Premier Lacrosse League (@PremierLacrosse) February 26, 2019
The initial round of investors was led by the Raine Group and included the Chernin Group, Blum Capital and CAA. Amount raised was not disclosed by the league. The first round allowed the Rabils to set up a three-point plan to reach the second round of funding.
The first objective was hiring a great executive team, while the second goal was to attract the best players in the world — the league announced 140 players signed in October. The last piece was a major media deal.
“If we could do those three things, we had a compelling business plan,” Rabil said. “It was important to implement a certain set of milestones to warrant a large capital raise and it’s important to hit those to justify the capital raised.”
The PLL signed a multi-year deal with NBC Sports Group, with three games broadcast on NBC and 19 games set to air on NBCSN and full-season package available on the subscription streaming service NBC Sports Gold. Several dry runs of broadcasts will be held before the launch.
“You only have one chance,” Rabil said.
The league will act as a competitor to a current professional lacrosse league, Major League Lacrosse. The Rabils hope the league’s media deals can help make the sport continue a trend toward the mainstream.
Content is at the heart of the PLL’s strategy to win fans, and Rabil said there’s been continuous planning for high-quality content creation, including original programming, to tell the sport’s stories. Rabil said he and his brother hope to showcase a lower barrier of entry for the sport, which is often painted as an elite East Coast hobby.
“At the end of the day, we’re entertaining people,” he said. “We want to entertain with a high level of competition, but also with the stories behind the players and how unique they are.”
The new influx of capital also will help the PLL leadership to make a few more key executive hires and continue to build and execute the game day experience, which will be key to the league’s success, Rabil said.
“Not only do fans expect a highly competitive game, but an atmosphere that is interactive with national sponsors,” he said.
Rabil said he’s enjoyed watching the first few weeks of the Alliance of American Football, which launched its inaugural season earlier this month. He’s impressed in the distribution and the diverse audience reach the league has achieved early in its existence.
“The AAF has done a great job of telling their story around football,” Rabil said. “It’s been great; I’ve learned a lot about a new industry. I don’t consider myself an expert in this space — just in building a business.
“I’ve applied a lot of what I’ve learned and hopefully it pays off.”