Rugby ATL squares off against the New York Ironworkers during this season's International Night.

After four seasons in the city, Atlanta’s professional rugby team, Rugby ATL, has been acquired by a new ownership group and will relocate.

Major League Rugby announced the decision in a news release that was sparse on details, simply noting that the new city and ownership would be revealed “soon.”

Rugby ATL recently ended its season without making the playoffs; it was less than a year into a contentious rebranding that was largely panned by its fans on social media. Though some embraced the fresh look, the team found itself defending its green color scheme, an effort to stand out by departing from the red and black often embraced by Georgia sports teams.

That the franchise was headed for new ownership was not a surprise. After the death of founding owner Marcus Calloway in 2021, a caretaker group took over as the team sought to find permanent ownership, according to the news release. 

Still, the news came as a rude awakening to the business team working to build the Rugby ATL brand in the city and spur local interest in a sport whose fan base skews heavily toward expatriates.

It also comes as on the eve of the Rugby World Cup, set to be held in France starting in September. Rugby ATL was pushing plans to launch a series of watch parties around the city in partnership with binational chambers and other international organizations.

Operations in Atlanta are set to cease later this month. Major League Rugby President Nic Benson held out hope that the city would win a new franchise eventually, praising the team’s fans and partners while saying in a statement that “Atlanta will remain a promising market for any future ownership group as the league continues to expand.” 

Amanda Windsor White, Rugby ATL’s president, thanked fans for supporting the team’s four-year run in the MLR. Amid COVID shutdowns of 2021, in just its second year in the league, Rugby ATL managed to win the Eastern Conference before falling in the final match.  

“Atlanta is a dynamic market, and its passion for sports, along with its vibrant culture with a global influence, is undeniable, and we’re grateful to have called it home for the past four years,” Ms. Windsor White said in a statement. 

World Rugby counts about 8 million players in its international federation, which has 132 member nations. 

The sport is especially popular in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, though many of its hundreds of millions of global fans are spread throughout large markets like the U.S., China, India and Brazil.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...