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Opinion

Why Toronto should be allowed to come back stronger in 2021

22 Jul 20, 1:05PM 0 Comments

Written by Callum Walker

Photo by Getty Images

The title says it all; I may cop some criticism for this, but I firmly believe that Toronto should be allowed back into Super League in 2021 with no financial repercussions or points deduction. Now, for those traditionalists reading this and perhaps shaking their heads and shouting “no”, my reasoning is simple.

Rugby League has been on its knees for some time. The creation of the Toronto Wolfpack in 2017 and their entry into League 1 of the English competition sparked an intense debate throughout every echelon of the sport’s fraternity. Earning promotion twice in three years to join Super League is no mean feat, but the Canadian club did it in front of nearly 10,000 fans every other week at their Lamport Stadium.

Granted, few away fans travelled to clubs around the UK, but the same could also be said of fans from Super League clubs such as Salford and Huddersfield and Championship sides such as London and Toulouse.

What the Wolfpack have brought to the sport has been nothing short of spectacular. The signing of former NRL and New Zealand All Blacks’ star Sonny Bill Williams was the biggest – and most positive – Rugby League news story for some time.

Of course, their struggles in 2020 have been well documented; no wins from their opening six games is not exactly a good record to begin with. And, with alleged rumours of players not being paid on time and money drying up then the Canadian club are in a bit of a pickle.

What will happen to players’ contracts? What will happen to players in the short- as well as long-term? There are many questions that need answering, but owner David Argyle has given his guarantee that all players will be paid as usual until the end of the season. And, Argyle and Toronto are dedicated to rejoining the top flight in 2021.

Things were stacked against the Wolfpack from the very start of their maiden season in Super League with many neutral fans wanting them to fail simply because they don’t like change. But, with the news that their stadium would not be able to host any games once the season restarted, Toronto then had to toil against nature and in that competition there’s only one winner.

It’s an incredibly difficult situation for a Canadian side, there’s no money coming in, but they can’t generate any Canadian support either because they simply aren’t playing games there. How can North American investors look to get involved if they aren’t seeing the product?

The game itself has benefited greatly from the exposure that the Wolfpack has given the sport and it would be a catastrophic shame if all that and Toronto’s rapid rise through the leagues came crashing down.

You can see where they are coming from too; it has simply become unviable for the Canadian club to continue. Facing the loss of seven overseas players – including star signing Williams – because of visa problems, the Wolfpack asked for a loan of £200,000 from the £16 million kitty that the RFL managed to accrue from the government. Yet, that was turned down by other Super League clubs despite the fact that the Wolfpack don’t take any of the Sky TV cash.

If Super League and the sport in general is serious about expansion and having success stories to talk about, then there needs to be a much more effective strategy than the one currently in place.

For me, this season is unique; without the pandemic, Toronto may still have had problems, but they wouldn’t have been so devastating. Yes, heavily scrutinize them and their finances upon their return, but don’t punish them if everything seems above board.

In my opinion, the Toronto project has not run its course – look at the community the club has developed 7000 miles away. Wipe the slate clean for 2021; if the Wolfpack fail then it will be purely down to themselves. Rugby League should hang on to its North American connection.

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