LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- AEG, the world's leading sports and live entertainment company, announced today at the World Rugby Congress and Exhibition in London that the company has formed a new division, AEG Rugby, that will expand its reach into one of the world's fastest growing sports by developing strategic partnership opportunities and programing that activate its global network of state-of-the-art stadiums and venues. Veteran international rugby player and former Executive Vice President for United World Sports, Dan Lyle, will serve as the division's Director.
"From both a business and participation perspective, rugby has seen unprecedented growth over the past several years both in the U.S. and throughout the world, not only among the number of participants, but also among the number of amateur and professional leagues and tournaments available to those who want to play competitively," said Steve Cohen, Chief Strategic Officer of AEG. "We believe that rugby's national and international popularity will continue to rise and we see great opportunities to align our business ventures and venues with the expanding growth of the sport." Cohen added, "There is no better leader for this new initiative than Dan and we are delighted to welcome him to the AEG family. His deep knowledge of rugby and strong experience with the business and operational aspects of the sport will provide us with a solid foundation to launch this exciting new division." "Today the game of rugby is at an inflection point as its popularity soars around the world," said Dan Lyle. "I believe that it will rival other sports in terms of future opportunities and between advertising, licensing, facilities, sponsorship and partnerships there are tremendous growth prospects ahead. AEG's global sports leadership and worldwide network of facilities makes them an ideal partner and I am thrilled to be joining their team." According to a 2015 EY study, rugby is now played in more than 119 countries with an estimated 6.6 million players worldwide. By 2026, the number of global rugby players is expected to hit 15 million and 150 countries are expected embrace the sport, according to HSBC. Additionally, the number of participating unions in the Rugby World Cup Tournament has grown from 16 in 1987 at its inception to 95 in 2015 with a television viewership of more than 4 billion people in 207 countries.