First U.S. pro women's rugby league announces plans for '25

Women's Elite Rugby announced Wednesday that, with its inaugural season slated to kick off in 2025, America will have its first professional women's rugby league.

While the Women's Premier League was established in 2009, the players aren't paid.

"For 15 years, women's rugby players in the Women's Premier League have played in an amateur, pay-to-play, cross-country league, and the consensus is that model is no longer sustainable," said Dr. Jessica Hammond-Graf, WER president, formerly the athletic director at University of Maryland Baltimore County and international rugby player.

"We are so proud of everything the WPL has done since 2009 to become such a strong blueprint for us, and we're ready to take our bold, exciting, and empowering sport to the next level."

WER is in communication with all seven current WPL teams for the 2025 season. According to a statement, WER plans for anywhere from six to eight teams with roughly 30 players per roster. Team locations are still being determined.

WER is bankrolled by private investment and currently sits at 50% through pre-seed funding. There will be a full-time front office staff as well.

The announcement comes on the heels of the most-watched college basketball game of all time, the Iowa-South Carolina national title game, seen by 18.9 million viewers; the WER's announcement noted that England's 2023 Women's Six Nations Championship match against France had an attendance of 58,498.

It was the most-attended women's rugby match of all time.

"[With WER] we really wanted to build a strong presence ahead of the 2033 Women's Rugby World Cup in the United States," vice president Katherine Aversano said in a statement.