TORONTO — It looks like the future of the Toronto Wolfpack could be decided as early as next week.
The financially troubled transatlantic team faces a Friday deadline to file its response to questions from English rugby league authorities. And potential new owner Carlo LiVolsi is expected to address a subsequent Super League board meeting with a vote on the team’s future to follow.
A Super League spokesman said the next regular board meeting is expected early next month. But Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter said the Toronto matter will be discussed at special meeting next week.
The Wolfpack submitted a new business plan last month, with the Super League board responding by asking for more information from the franchise.
“There was nothing in there that we were surprised about,” Hunter said Wednesday. “And nothing that we had any challenges or difficulties preparing.”
“We are getting down to the short strokes,” he added.
The Wolfpack’s fate will eventually be decided by the 11 other Super League clubs, executive chairman Robert Elstone and the Rugby Football League. All have one vote.
The Super League board, meanwhile, has been working on updating an analysis of “the viability of rugby league in Canada and North America.”
The Wolfpack have been in limbo since standing down July 20, saying the team could not afford to resume play for the remainder of the season. Players and staff have not been paid since June 10.
Some players have already joined new clubs, either on loan for the rest of the season or for good.
Hunter said the team currently has some 14 players under contract and is recruiting “every day” as if it will play next year. An open invitation to return has been tendered to marquee players Sonny Bill Williams and Ricky Leutele, who joined the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm, respectively, for the remainder of Australia’s NRL season.
Wolfpack majority owner David Argyle has stepped away with LiVolsi looking to buy the franchise, providing it remains in the English top-tier and that the club finally gets a cut of the funding that the other 11 clubs share.
That central distribution funding is worth about 2.3 million pounds ($4 million) per team in a normal year. It is drawn primarily from TV revenue with a portion from sponsorships.
Toronto has been behind the 8-ball since Day 1, having agreed to pay travel and accommodation costs for visiting teams. And due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, it faced the prospect of having to go the entire 2020 season without staging a game in Toronto.
Toronto started played in 2017 in the Betfred League 1, the third tier of English rugby league. The team won promotion to the second-tier Championship and then Super League. It was 0-6-0 in the top tier when play was suspended in mid-March due to the pandemic.
Super League resumed play with 11 teams on Aug. 2, expunging Toronto’s results from the standings.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press