Toronto Wolfpack fear the worst despite relegation being cancelled

Sonny Bill Williams of Toronto Wolfpack. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Sonny Bill Williams of Toronto Wolfpack. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Wolfpack’s decision to pull out of the remainder of the 2020 Super League season could reportedly lead to the club having their licence revoked.

The Toronto Wolfpack sent shock waves around the Rugby League community on Monday, with The Guardian reporting their withdrawal from the remainder of the 2020 campaign. The Super League is set to restart next week and will now only have 11 teams competing.

As we previously wrote, the Wolfpack have suffered severe financial challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the league being well aware of these issues, there is a lot of frustration and anger over Toronto’s decision to forgo the rest of the 2020 season.

Critics believe the timing is bad, coming after the schedule had been revised and so close to the return to action. The timing actually made perfect sense however, coming on the same day it was confirmed their would be no relegation this year as a result of COVID-19. (The Championship and League 1 will not resume in 2020.)

In theory this should be good news for the Wolfpack, who were at the bottom of the Super League standings when the season was suspended in March. However, owner David Argyle fears what punishment the club will receive after their decision to play no more games this year.

In fact, as reported by Matthew Shaw of Total Rugby League, Argyle believes the Wolfpack will be kicked out of the Super League as punishment for their withdrawal. He shared his concerns during a zoom call with employees on Tuesday.

There are four potential outcomes for the Wolfpack. These include being relegated to the Championship or League 1, retaining their place in the Super League for next season, or having their licence revoked completely.

From our perspective, we know Toronto did not take their decision lightly, to withdraw from the remainder of the 2002 season. They were well aware of the fallout which would result from such a move.

However, as mentioned earlier, the Rugby League knew about the financial issues being suffered by the club. In addition, the Wolfpack have had ongoing visa issues with players ever since they entered the league in 2017, and they feel as if not enough has been done to help rectify this.

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We want to believe having their licence revoked altogether will not happen, with the Toronto Wolfpack being impacted more than most by the ongoing pandemic. Such a move would show a lack of sympathy and potentially compromise the Rugby League’s efforts to grow in the international community.

In addition, despite other Super League clubs being concerned about TV earnings being reduced, it could have been worse. As per Shaw, Toronto does not receive any of the Sky money in the current deal, essentially meaning their promotion to the Super League resulted in bonus money for the other 11 clubs.

Having said all this, despite a lot of the Wolfpack’s issues being beyond their control, the timing of their withdrawal from the 2020 campaign does cause considerable issues. As such, this is why Argyle is arguably right to believe the club will be demoted as punishment.

Assuming this does happen, the concern is Toronto could enter into a free-fall comparable to their rapid rise through the Rugby League ranks. As noted by Shaw, being demoted would result in player contracts becoming null and void.

In fact, Argyle has already told players they are free to sign with other clubs if they can negotiate deals. This could mean losing the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and no longer being able to sign star Leeds duo, Stevie Ward and Richie Myler.

A decision by the Rugby League about the Wolfpack’s immediate future is expected sooner than later. There is blame on both sides for how Toronto has ended up in their current position, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Do you agree with the Toronto Wolfpack’s decision to forgo the remainder of the 2020 Super League season? Regardless, what punishment — if any — do you predict the club will receive? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.