Fast Company

A WHOLE DIFFERENT LEAGUE

BACKED BY MAJOR INVESTORS, LACROSSE SUPERSTAR PAUL RABIL AND HIS BROTHER, MIKE, ARE LAUNCHING A GROUND-BREAKING MODEL FOR PROFESSIONAL TEAM SPORTS.
Paul and Mike Rabil at Red Bull Arena

THE LINE—THE PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION CENTER stretches several hundred feet, three or four people thick with giddy lacrosse fans, many of them kids with their parents in tow. They have traveled from all over the country to attend LaxCon, the annual event sponsored by U.S. Lacrosse (the sport’s official governing body), which offers three days of clinics, demos, vendor exhibits, and a chance to share oxygen with the world’s greatest lacrosse players, including the most famous of them all, Paul Rabil, who is at the head of this queue, greeting fans and posing for photos.

This year, the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) star known for his brawn, speed, and skill is here on a mission of his own: to promote the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), which he and his brother, Mike, launched last fall. Rabil and nearly 160 of the world’s top players have opted out of playing for the 18-year-old MLL to join the PLL, lured by a guaranteed minimum salary about two or three times higher than the MLL’s as well as healthcare, coverage on NBC, a touring schedule set to begin on June 1, and an equity stake—a first for a professional sports league. The league’s investors—Creative Artists Agency and such private equity players as the Raine Group, the Chernin Group, Blum Capital, and others—see potential in an exploding market for an increasingly popular game.

Lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America, invented by Native Americans nearly 1,000 years ago (the Iroquois called it the Creator’s Game). When Jesuit missionaries encountered it in

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