Toronto Wolfpack facing uncertain short and long-term future

Sonny Bill Williams of the Toronto Wolfpack and manager Brian McDermott. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Sonny Bill Williams of the Toronto Wolfpack and manager Brian McDermott. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Wolfpack may be unable to finish the 2020 season, with the long-term fallout creating for an uncertain future in the Super League.

Ever since the Toronto Wolfpack joined the Rugby Football League in 2017 they have enjoyed an impressive and rapid rise through the ranks, with little going wrong along the way. Now, they find themselves in a position where they could conceivably be headed in the opposite direction.

As we wrote recently, it seemed unlikely the Wolfpack would be unable to play any home games in Toronto when the Super League season resumes in August. According to the latest news however, their situation may now be even more dire.

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As per a report from Dave Woods of BBC Sport, the Wolfpack may be forced to pull out of the remainder of this year’s Super League season. This nightmare scenario has come about due to visa issues with overseas players, including star signing Sonny Bill Williams.

Woods writes that the visa issue impacts seven of Toronto’s players, from Australia and New Zealand, who are only allowed to stay in England for up to six months. This time limit has now expired and because the players in question were forced to remain in England during the lockdown, they will now have to return home.

As a result of this, the club have admitted they might not be able to complete their commitments for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. If the Rugby Football League decides to keep relegation and promotion for this season — something the Super League is arguing against because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — Toronto would be set to go down due to currently being at the bottom of the standings.

This could signal the start of a disastrous sequence of events from which the Toronto Wolfpack may not be able to recover from. Consider that they are struggling financially, due to factors such as being unable to play home matches in Canada and not being allowed to place the players on furlough.

As per The Canadian Press via MSN Sports, the Wolfpack do not get a cut of the TV money from British broadcaster Sky under the terms of its current deal with the Super League. In addition, the club were exempt from the £16 million ($27.3 million) emergency loan the British government offered the Rugby Football League

Being relegated would also impact the Wolfpack’s ability to attract quality players. As per a recent report, they were leading the chase to sign Stevie Ward and Richie Myler, but the Leeds Rhinos star duo may not be as willing to join a club which is no longer in the Super League.

Wolfpack owner David Argyle is understandably concerned by the current situation. As reported by Gareth Walker of the Daily Mirror, Argyle said:

"“We have laid this out to Super League and the RFL and it’s an issue that we can’t keep kicking down the road…It’s been suggested to us that we could loan young players from other clubs, but we’re not here to make up the numbers and we never have been.“I’m not blaming anybody. I can understand the bureaucratic position and we are only a very small issue for an organisation like the Home office, but we’ve come to a crunch point now where it needs to be resolved.”"

As much as Argyle doesn’t want to blame anyone, he has become increasingly frustrated by the issues in resolving the visa situation ever since the Wolfpack joined the Rugby Football League, The current pandemic has only reinforced the ongoing complication and made it even worse. (Because the club is Canadian-owned, the visas are different for overseas players compared to the majority of the Super League.)

As a result of all this, the time between now and the resumption of Super League play will be the most critical period in the short history of the Wolfpack. Even if relegation and promotion is suspended for 2020, the Super League could still decide to punish the club and move them down to the Championship if they do not play their remaining matches scheduled for this year.

These are unique and unsettling times for everyone and now it’s just a case of waiting to find out how accommodating the powers that be will be towards the Wolfpack’s situation. A lot of things have happened which are outside the club’s control, and it is to be hoped the Rugby Football League will use both common sense and compassion in making a decision.

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Are you concerned about what the future holds for the Toronto Wolfpack? Or are you confident their uncertain situation will be resolved favourably? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.