New North American clubs should go straight into the Championship
26 March 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson
Recent reports have revealed that plans are afoot for a new rugby league club in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.
The man behind the Toronto Wolfpack, Eric Perez, has bought the League 1 licence of Hemel Stags, and plans to relocate the club to Canada.
This will not affect the community club who play in Hemel.
Reports have also confirmed that the RFL is considering the application of a club in New York in the USA to play in the British professional rugby league ranks.
The question remains that, if both clubs’ applications are approved, should they be playing in League 1, or begin their journey higher up the pyramid.
Well-funded expansion clubs backed by multi-millionaires have no place in League 1, which should be about developing players and providing a semi-professional stepping stone between the amateur game and the higher ranks of the sport.
The Championship, on the other hand, is now a division where Super League clubs in waiting can prove their credentials.
It is a division where the likes of moneybags Toronto and aspirational Toulouse Olympique are trying to prove their worth to play in the top tier.
It is the perfect environment for a wealthy new club in Canada or the USA to prove themselves by playing against other teams vying for a place in Super League.
Going into League 1, buying up players who are too good for that level, and destroying teams like West Wales Raiders every week would be a complete waste of time.
It would also do nothing for other clubs in League 1 whose ambitions are much more modest, with reaching Super League a very distant dream at best for most clubs at that level.
League 1 clubs also face plenty of disruption when it comes to travelling across to North America.
It is not just the money that travel costs – which may well be provided by the North American clubs themselves, as with Toronto – but also the disruption to the working lives of part-time players.
While the same is true to a certain extent in the Championship, that competition has an increasing number of full-time or almost full-time clubs.
If the history of our game has taught us anything it’s that expansion needs to be handled carefully.
If the new clubs in Ottawa and New York are introduced into the UK competition, which league they play in needs to chosen very carefully indeed.
League 1 should be retained as a bridge between the amateur and professional games.
Well-funded, full-time clubs need to start in the Championship.