Written by Keith Whitelock
Photo by Red Bull Arena
Consortium reportedly gives deadline to RFL
The rich bid for a trans-Atlantic rugby league team have been waiting for a decision from the England’s Rugby Football League (RFL) since new first broke of the bid back in August 2017.
The bid team, led by businessman Ricky Wilby is stated as having AU $52 million (£28.3 million) to spend over the first three years of operation. If these figures are correct, the team will be the richest team in the English divisions.
Nate Gladdin from the Rugby League America podcast recently revealed that Ricky Wilby and his team have grown increasingly frustrated around the lack of response from Red Hall. The bid team are now thought to have outlined all the specifics of their bid and laid everything bare. The team is thought to have lined up an airline sponsor, provided evidence of their financial might, an apparel sponsor, a possible stadium (likely Red Bull Arena in New Jersey) amongst a few other things. Details as minor in the scheme of things such as jersey design (blue and orange) have also been touted.
Whilst Gladdin was not able to comment on a specific date, it is almost certain that this news of a deadline means fans will likely have an answer on the bid in early February.
The financial might of the bid and the world city they represent means this decision will likely be one of the biggest decisions made in the history of the sport. Whilst Toronto have a population of 2.7 million and average around 7,500 to each game (despite being in the lower leagues), New York City has a population just shy of 9 million people. In addition to this, New Jersey has a population of around 9 million people. Rugby League would require a mere fraction of people turning up to games in order to achieve the highest crowds in the English leagues.
Former head of the RFL Nigel Wood was tasked with compiling a report on the viability of the New York bid. This was frankly a long time ago now and no movement have been seen. Since this time, Ralph Rimmer has taken charge of the RFL but a similar stagnation on any firm developments from Red Hall has been seen. Complications due to the breakaway of Super League clubs is one possible reason for the delay. Rugby league simply can’t afford to let politics and self-interest squander an opportunity as monumental as this proposal.
With the New York bid now prepared to pull the pin on things, the RFL must not only make a decision, but explain to the fans of the game why they made their decision. Either way, specific bid details will become public knowledge. In a concept most fans can see only upside to, the faltering faith in the RFL has left many sceptical that Red Hall have the ability to make the right decision for the sport of rugby league.