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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

Sonny Bill's Wolfpack withdraw from Super League

The Toronto-based side’s decision has led England’s Super League to make its ‘disappointment’ clear.

Image: Mike Egerton

TORONTO WOLFPACK TODAY announced that they must withdraw from Super League for the rest of the 2020 season due to financial constraints.

The Canadian side have been playing in English rugby league’s top flight for the first time after winning promotion from the Championship.

Wolfpack, who have dual-code star Sonny Bill Williams in their squad, had been due to resume the season against Hull KR on 2 August and their move drew a strongly worded joint statement from Super League and the Rugby Football League.

The league’s only transatlantic club cited “overwhelming financial challenges” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic for the decision to temporarily withdraw from the competition.

“Toronto Wolfpack can confirm that the club has informed both Super League Europe (SLE) and the Rugby Football League (RFL) that the team will not be restarting the campaign as scheduled on August 2nd,” the club said in a statement.

“The Wolfpack will not participate in the conclusion of the 2020 Betfred Super League season, or in the remainder of the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup.

This decision has not been taken lightly, and in consideration of a range of factors specific to the club as the only transatlantic team in the league.”

Last week, the Daily Mirror reported that Williams and six fellow ‘overseas’ players were working on visas that permitted them to work for six months in the UK. Time that has now expired.

Super League and the RFL said they were disappointed with the move to withdraw, with the competition about to restart after the coronavirus shutdown.

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“Super League Europe and the RFL have been in regular dialogue with the Wolfpack over the past weeks and months regarding the club’s ability to take part in the competition and firm assurances had been received as recently as last Thursday, 16 July,” they said in a statement.

“The club’s decision is especially disappointing given the imminent restart of the season.”

Despite the high-profile signing of ex-union star Sonny Bill Williams, Toronto had lost their first six matches of their debut top-flight campaign and were facing relegation back to the Championship.

The club announced last week the team would be unable to host fixtures this season at their Lamport Stadium in Toronto.

All of their matches so far have been in England.

Noting reduced ticket, sponsorship and game-day revenue streams, Toronto’s statement added: “The Covid pandemic has presented unexpected and overwhelming financial challenges to the Wolfpack organisation.”

“The club fully intend to field a team in the 2021 season, and will be working with SLE and the RFL to understand this process moving into the next season,” Toronto said.

Rugby league bosses are still to decide whether relegation from Super League will be scrapped this year.

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