MLL to Become Single-Entity League, Forego Franchise Model


Major League Lacrosse, which is about to embark on its 20th season, has voted to become a single-entity league and forego the franchise model on which it was founded.

Bill Wagner of The Capital Gazette confirmed MLL’s decision while reporting that Brendan Kelly has ceded ownership of the Chesapeake Bayhawks, who have won four league titles since Kelly bought the franchise in March 2010.

“Major League Lacrosse voted to go with a single-entity league with no franchises and that is not something I want to be involved with,” Kelly told The Capital Gazette. “That model turns me into an investor and board member as opposed to an owner and that is just not in my competitive nature.”

MLL had already assumed operations of the Dallas Rattlers from Jim Davis, who decided to get out of pro lacrosse. According to The Capital Gazette, MLL had also overtaken the Denver Outlaws with the Bowlen family restructuring its sports holdings.

The league held a meeting Friday, according to the report, and owners of the Boston Cannons (Rob Hale) and New York Lizards (Andrew Murstein) supported the plan for MLL to operate all six franchises, the majority vote leaving little choice for Kelly and Atlanta Blaze owner Andre Gudger but to follow suit.

“I poured my heart and soul into making the Bayhawks the premier franchise in Major League Lacrosse and that is reflected in the four championships,” Kelly told The Capital Gazette. “I’ll have those rings forever, along with the memories of each of those teams that made championship runs.”

MLL has transformed rapidly since Paul Rabil, one of the league’s former star players, launched  the Premier Lacrosse League as a direct competitor. The league contracted three franchises (Charlotte, Florida and Ohio) and reacquired its media rights, while also raising the salary cap, expanding rosters and moving the start of the season to June.

“Having two outdoor leagues is not going to work," Kelly told Inside Lacrosse’s Terry Foy in a separate report that included his resignation from the MLL board. “There’s not clear sight of healing or coming together in the future. I think we’re chasing sponsors and fans from the business.”

Mark Burdett, MLL’s chief revenue officer, told The Capital Gazette the league would be stronger with all six teams receiving equal support from MLL.

“We know we have the funding for 2020, we know what the executive committee looks like and we know how team operations will work across the board,” he said.

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