As a small-town girl from the middle of nowhere Tennessee, lacrosse was not a household sport. To be honest, the only lacrosse knowledge I had pertained to the Duke Lacrosse 30 for 30 on ESPN. On July 14th, 2023, when I watched my first lacrosse game with Mike Rabil, the CEO and Co-Founder of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), I found out what the hype is all about. After getting a full PLL experience, I became obsessed and wanted to know everything about the sport, especially the setup of the League and strategies for future growth. Luckily, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the PLL’s General Counsel, Jessica Evans, to get most of my answers.
The PLL is unlike other professional sports leagues. Because the league is only five years old, it functions differently. With no “home base,” the eight different teams, in past seasons, traveled to multiple locations throughout the United States, leased stadiums from different colleges and arenas, and played at least two games every weekend during the summer. The purpose of this “touring” structure is to spread the sensation to parts of the nation where the knowledge of lacrosse was similar to mine. The league also functions differently in that it is investor-backed and uses a single-entity ownership structure. Typically, leagues are made up of teams owned by multiple people, whereas the PLL itself actually owns its teams and employs its players and staff. Ms. Evans explains that this type of ownership is advantageous at this stage of growth for several reasons. A particular legal benefit of single-entity ownership is that the League is not subject to the anti-competitive restrictions set forth under the Sherman Act, which involves antitrust laws and competitive market practices and limitations. A more practical reason is that, unlike teams that require multiple owners to come together to vote when making decisions, the PLL can make decisions quickly and efficiently because ownership is centralized.
By way of example, the league’s teams have historically been city agnostic. The league recently announced that it is transitioning geographically affiliated teams– a large shift in its business model that it could execute quickly due to its single-entity structure. The League announced eight new “home bases" this past Wednesday. For the 2024 season, teams will be stationed in California, Colorado, Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina & South Carolina (base borders both states), New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The teams will be divided into East and West Divisions, adding division finals during the playoff season. Even with the new home bases and single-entity ownership and leasing venues. Using essentially a “crawl-walk-run” method, this is a natural evolution for the League, according to Ms. Evans. She states that this decision was the obvious next step for the league and a big investment. According to Co-Founder, Paul Rabil, the teams will continue using the touring method like prior seasons. The teams at “home” will have double headers to allow more opportunity for home fans to watch their favorite team.
The biggest question is: Why did the PLL add home teams when the previous structure worked successfully? The main reason: growth. Anchoring teams to a “home base” will produce more fan engagement and introduce more sports lovers to America’s original pastime - the game of Lacrosse. I mean, who doesn’t want to cheer on the home team? The cities chosen were curated using several different methods including fan vote and live stream attendance, ticket sales from previous seasons, commercial opportunity through sponsorships, and overall sports market performance. Needless to say, the people in the chosen “home bases” are die-hard fanatics for any team representing their city. The 2024 PLL season schedule will be released on January 1.
Clearly, I am excited for the 2024 PLL season! The new home base structure and continued touring method are exactly what the League needs to create a spark that spreads like wildfire nationwide. Paul, Mike, and Jessica are taking the necessary steps to really maximize the potential for the PLL. I cannot wait to cheer on my closest home city team (GO CHAOS!) this coming season and see how the PLL continues to grow.
Abbigail Buck is a third-year law student at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She can be found on X @abbibuckets and LinkedIn (Abbi Buck).