Super League boss Robert Elstone can see why Toronto Wolfpack pulled out
SUPER League clubs will decide whether Toronto Wolfpack will be kicked out – but boss Robert Elstone understands why they dropped out of the 2020 season.
There will be no rash judgments and there is definitely no, ‘I told you so.’
However, the process of expanding rugby league needs to be looked at.
The Wolfpack are fighting for their existence after bowing out of this season following an estimated £2 million loss of revenue, players’ UK visas running out and failing to pay wages on time.
They have told other clubs why they should stay for 2021 and the competition’s board will hold further talks next week.
But executive chairman Elstone can see why they made the call, while revealing it was mentioned whether to bring someone else in.
He said: “Them stepping away has not been helpful but the reasons are there to be seen – the challenge of flying across the Atlantic in the middle of the Covid crisis, the impact it had on their home games and the impact on their playing squad.
“In many ways they’ve helped explain the decision very legitimately in my view.
“We have to do it objectively, robustly and thoroughly. We have to listen to them and the views of Super League clubs and make sure we do a really comprehensive review of the situation.
“We were doing everything in our power to ensure Toronto got back to the start line and the club did everything in its power.
“If you’re giving it your best shot, you want to give it as much time as you possibly can, it was never likely to be an early decision because nobody wanted it to happen. So on that basis it was always going to be late.
“The option for bringing someone in for 2020 was floated but there were many issues on all sorts of fronts, so it was relatively easy to say, ‘It just isn’t appropriate for a club to take their place.’
“Depending on the outcome of our evaluation, we’ll then make a decision on what the 2021 season might look like.
“Toronto has a participation agreement and it’s within Super League’s gift to do what it wants in respect to that. Super League clubs will ultimately determine the shape of the 2021 season.”
Toronto’s withdrawal raised fears of Super League handing more money back to broadcasters Sky in a rebate on the TV deal.
However, Elstone revealed it has not increased the amount that was agreed before they collapsed.
“We were ‘smart enough’ to carve out exemptions and the deal we did was done with a bit of foresight in terms of insulating ourselves from Toronto,” he added.
The Wolfpack’s call has raised issues over whether rugby league is being grown in the right way. Their lack of central distribution, which other clubs get, is the main stumbling block.
Fellow Canadians Ottawa are joining League One next year while New York are lined up but Elstone believes the vision should be closer to home.
He said: “Toronto were introduced with a very clear set of financial conditions and I understand they and the English clubs accepted them.
“Toronto had asked to speak to Super League clubs about restating that. I was sympathetic to it but they’d been introduced on what I believe was a very clear set of rules
“Strategic expansion into areas where there’s an affinity to the game, where it’s played, where it’s connected geographically, makes sense.
“This felt to be a different expansion strategy, which isn’t to say it was never going to work and there’s absolutely no, ‘I told you so,’ in any of this.”
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