Confusion reigns as RFL end Toronto Challenge Cup hope

29 January 2019 - Written by Keith Whitelock

Confusion reigns as RFL end Toronto Challenge Cup hope

CEO Ralph Rimmer adamant Toronto will not be participating this year.

As with many things in rugby league, a piece of good news was recently followed by a piece of bad news. The decision to back down on demands that Coral Challenge Cup champions Catalan Dragons pay a ‎£500,000 bond to defend their title was clearly a case of common sense prevailing. This decision got many fans hopeful that fellow non-RFL team Toronto Wolfpack would also re-enter the competition.

In an interview with trade magazine League Weekly, Rimmer put an end to any hopes Toronto Wolfpack owner David Argyle had of his team participating in the prestigious tournament this year. “It’s really straightforward. They (Toronto) know what the situation is and there’s been no further discussions – so the competition is as you see it… I like David a lot, he’s got a twinkle in his eye but they won’t be in the Challenge Cup this year. All the structures have been worked out for the cup and they’re aware of that”.

This refusal to back down on something that should have been straightforward begs the question, would the RFL have backed down on Catalans entering the competition if they we’re not defending champions?

The RFL has claimed that their strange decision making around this issue was simply a matter of head office looking out for the interests of the game. This is quite hard to fathom, given the potential a club like the Wolfpack has to make a key contribution to the long term vision for the sport.

Toronto have not wavered from their stance all along. In a nutshell, they are very keen to participate in the Challenge Cup but feel being charged a deposit whilst other clubs are not sets an unfair precedent.

Argyle has stated publically that discussions with the RFL are still ongoing. This public statement by RFL all but puts an end to any hope of a backflip from Red Hall.

Argyle is known to have an expansionist view of rugby league, falling agonisingly short of his goal of staging a Toronto game in Belgrade Serbia this year. He is believed to have earmarked a number of European cities to stage games in next year if the Wolfpack achieve their goal of Super League promotion. So far, Argyle has stated that Dublin Ireland and Copenhagen Denmark are two other cities in addition to Belgrade where Toronto could look to move games to.

The decision not to allow the Wolfpack a place in this year’s Coral Challenge Cup is a bizarre one and one that has been commented on extensively in the rugby league media lately. It is clearly a poor and short sighted decision indicating just how desperate the RFL have become.

Fellow non-RFL club Toulouse Olympique seemed to recognise some time ago that not participating in the Challenge Cup has its benefits. The club has publically stated that they would prefer to concentrate on their goal of Super League promotion. With both Toulouse and Toronto now resting on weeks other Championship clubs are playing in Challenge Cup rounds, the odds of two non-British teams participating in the 2020 Super League just became a whole lot shorter.

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