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Toronto Wolfpack ready to make case to return to action with new owner

TORONTO — The Toronto Wolfpack’s proposed new owner will make his case to England’s Super League on Tuesday with the transatlantic rugby league team also submitting a new five-year business plan to revive the financially troubled franchise.

Tuesday marks the deadline Super League had given the Wolfpack to present its application for readmission. Toronto’s original participation agreement was torn up in the wake of the club’s July 20 announcement that it could no longer afford to play out the remainder of the pandemic-interrupted season.

The Wolfpack have not identified its potential new owner, other than to say he is North American and a member of the team’s original ownership group. Majority owner David Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur, is stepping away from the franchise because he no longer has the resources to fund it.

Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter, the former MLSE executive who has not taken a salary since joining the franchise last August, says the hope is the club’s future will be decided “the sooner the better.”

“I know the league would like to have it over quickly, even at this point of time for planning purposes. What the league’s going to look like next year,” he said.

The Wolfpack hope to finally get a share of the league’s broadcast deal with Sky TV broadcast deal — worth some 2.3 million pounds ($4 million) per team a season.

That essentially covers the salary cap of 2.1 million pounds ($3.67 million) although that number can grow given teams are allowed two marquee players whose salary cap hit is limited to 150,000 pounds ($261,500) per person.

Tuesday also marks what looks to be another missed paycheque. Toronto’s players and staff have not been paid since June 10 — the May payroll which arrived late.

“Certainly the new owner understands and is committed to stepping up and fixing everything, including retro (pay),” said Hunter. “So anything owed would be paid. But we’ve got to get that new owner across the finish line.”

Some Wolfpack players including former All Black Sonny Bill Williams (Sydney Roosters), Australian-born Samoan international Ricky Leutele (Melbourne Storm), New Zealand’s Bodene Thompson (Leeds Rhinos) and England’s Gareth O’Brien (Castleford Tigers) have already joined other clubs on loan for the rest of the season.

Others have reportedly received food hampers from other Super League teams to help them make do.

The departure of Toronto has left Super League at 11 teams — 10 from England and the France’s Catalan Dragons.

The Wolfpack first took the field in 2017, playing in the third-tier League 1. The club subsequently won promotion to the second-tier Championship and then Super League.

In its first year in the top tier in 2020, Toronto lost all six league outings prior to the pandemic-prompted shutdown in March. The Wolfpack’s results have since been expunged from the Super League standings.

The Toronto club last played March 11 when it blanked Huddersfield Giants 18-0 in the fifth round of the Coral Challenge Cup.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2020.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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