Major League Rugby’s lone Canadian club heads into the 2023 season as the sport’s first professional team to display a not-for-profit organization on the front of its jersey.
A spot traditionally reserved for a prominent sponsor is now going to be held by the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation (TIRF) in a non-financial agreement between the partners.
The relationship comes as an intentional move by the club and team President Bill Webb to keep the growth of rugby in Canada at the forefront of the Arrows’ identity.
“I’ve been around TIRF ever since the beginning of it, and last year to see them touch 15,000 plus young people … It’s the biggest individual impact, I think, on the growth of the sport in the country if you look at the numbers of kids,” said Webb. “So, for me, it was a bit of a no-brainer.”
“We should have done it earlier in some ways … it’s just a natural partnership.”
Toronto’s largest rugby-based community organization has been exposing children in schools and summer camps to the sport of rugby for 11 years.
Outside of its youth programming, the organization works to alleviate barriers for players pursuing post-secondary, provincial, and national pathways. Josiah Morrah, now a member of Canada’s national rugby program began his journey with the support of TIRF.
Newly appointed captain Lucas Rumball, a Toronto native from the Scarborough area, considers the agreement to be something special.
“It’s a big thing, everyone sees it and it represents who you are,” said the captain. “For me, it’s an honor to have that there and represent a program that does so much good in the community and wants to put not just a rugby-based message, but also the positive aspect of team sports
“So, it’s huge to have that on the front of your jersey.”
TIRF’s Executive Director Amanda Neale-Robinson wants to emphasize that the relationship extends beyond a jersey.
“I think it’s important to note that it’s not just that our logo is on the front of the kit,” said Robinson. “This is about impacting the community in a meaningful, intentional, and concerted way.”
That would include creating access for more people to experience the joys of rugby and an appreciation of the Arrows for sharing in the value of making quality programs accessible.
Robinson also reflected on what the support of Toronto’s rugby team meant to her.
“It’s also really humbling and emotional,” she said. “To have the Arrows, a professional rugby team, validate and amplify the work TIRF has been compelled to do in the community.”
Anyone looking to see the Arrows debut their new kit as they enter season five in the MLR can catch their games on TSN, TSN+, and the network’s various platforms.
The Arrows opened their season on Feb. 17 and begin a summer of home games on April 8 at York Lions Stadium. Full schedule details can be found on the Arrows team website.