Written by John Davidson
Ottawa chairman Eric Perez is still planning for the Aces to play in League 1 next year, as well as in the new North American Rugby League (NARL) competition that was launched last week.
The semi-professional NARL plans to kick off in June in Brooklyn and Las Vegas with 14 teams involved across the United States and Canada, including Ottawa and the resurrected Toronto Wolfpack.
This year the Aces and Wolfpack will play against each other in a Canada Cup, due to Covid-19 restrictions, before joining the NARL’s east conference in 2022.
The competition will have an east conference made up of the Atlanta Rhinos, Boston Thirteens, Brookly Kings, Cleveland Rugby League, New York Rugby League and Washington Calvary, and a west coast conference made up of Austin Armadillos, Las Vegas Blackjacks, Phoenix Venom, Portland Loggers, San Deigo Swell and San Francisco Rush.
Perez, who founded the Wolfpack and served as chairman of Bradford Bulls for a period, has high hopes for the NARL.
“With our market size and operating environment I’m hoping we can be in the conversation to be called the best competition in the northern hemisphere within seven to 10 years,” he told Everything Rugby League.
— North American Rugby League (@NARugbyLeague) April 3, 2021
Ottawa has deferred competing in League 1 until 2022, and Perez says he still wants his club to play in the British third division.
“All of this is pandemic pending but if we ran a team in both competitions we would need two completely different line-ups with some overlap,” he said.
“Everything about what we are doing is tricky, however I will point out it’s the tricky tasks that usually yield the most interesting and worthwhile results. We have already started our recruiting drive, the core element is Canadian athletes so that’s what we will be aiming at for the Canada Cup.
“In 2022 we will bring in some key overseas players which will make up approximately 25% of the squad.”
Everything Rugby League understands a new private ownership group has taken over the running of Toronto Wolfpack and purchased its branding and intellectual property. The identity of the new owners has yet to be revealed.
“Your Toronto Wolfpack is back and under the guidance of a new private investor group who have purchased the intellectual property assets,” a statement on the club’s website reads.
“There is no tie to the previous ownership and our owners are now simply ‘Team Wolfpack’. We will focus on our fans, our team and the City of Toronto not the ownership team.
“As of today, our decision is to play rugby league in North America this will hopefully make all our future games more accessible and affordable to everybody who wants to be a part of our journey.”
It is believed that the players, staff and creditors of the Wolfpack, who are collectively owed millions, have not been informed of the change in ownership and are still in debt.
Everything Rugby League understands the NARL has been set up with a fund of around US$4.2 million, with each club receiving US$300,000 in central funding.
New York founder Ricky Wilby is believed to be involved in the new competition, along with his associate Liverpuddlian businessman Gary Sloane. Wilby declined to comment when contacted.
Everything Rugby League understands the NARL owns 30% of each of the 14 members club. According to reports, several clubs will not be entitled to a share of television income of other central sponsorship beyond the US$300,000 distribution, and American internationals such as Ryan Burroughs and Mark Offerdahl will play in the competition.
The NARL’s partners are believed to include BeIN Sport, GSBC Holdings, Energy Producers incorporated and Sports Flick. An Australian-based streaming company, Sports Flick will be broadcasting the NARL matches for the price of US$9.95 per month.