Brian McDermott calls for extra salary cap and quota spots for non-heartland clubs

Toronto head coach Brain McDermott believes non-heartland clubs should be given dispensations, including a larger salary cap and more overseas quota spots.

The Wolfpack head coach says he has been “fascinated” by the ongoing saga regarding the club’s potential entry into Super League, and questioned whether decision-makers are keen to see Toronto be successful.

McDermott, who spent five years at London Broncos, believes clubs outside the heartlands are put under strain by having to abide by the same rules and legislations as clubs who play along the M62.

And he believes rules should be relaxed to allow clubs like the Wolfpack a greater opportunity to be successful.

“When Melbourne Storm entered the NRL they were afforded certain dispensations in a few areas of running the club,” McDermott explained.

“Because they knew first off the game wanted, and that’s the key phrase, they wanted a team from Melbourne, they knew that would be good for the game in Australia. But they realised that if they made them abide by the same rules as the Sydney clubs and the Melbourne clubs and the Queensland clubs they would find it difficult.

“We’re going to go into a competition where we have to abide by the same rules. It’s at that point you wonder whether the game want us in.

“When I ask that rhetorical question, of course they do, but I just think it is short-sighted to say you can come in, but you have to pay for everyone’s flights, everyone’s accommodation, you’re not getting any central funding, you’re not allowed any more overseas players and you’ve got to play by the same salary cap.

“We realise, because this is sport, that winning teams put bums on seats. This is a big ask for Toronto to be successful in Super League.”

When asked what dispensations he believes should be permitted, McDermott desponded: “Overseas quota and salary cap. They’re two start points.

“I remember being at London Broncos for five years. The squad I took over had 20 overseas and five English. Because of rules and legislation we had to turn that around in 18 months from 20 overseas and five England to 20 English and five overseas. For a team outside the heartlands of the game and city as expensive as London, I’m not sure the Broncos ever recovered from that dynamic.

“They weren’t afforded any dispensation on London weighting. In any other industry you go to work in London you get a London wage. I reckon at least £500,000 of the salary cap was spent on accommodation issues. A £100,000 player would want £130,000 coming to London. Times that by 25 players, you’ve got a lot of money chewed up.

“There’s an example how a team like London, who I believe should be in the league, have to live and die living by the same rules of every other club in the game. It can be difficult for these starter clubs, so in some respects, credit to the RFL for having the vision to bring the club into the game, but you sometimes wonder whether they want it to succeed when they ask you to meet certain demands that I believe aren’t realistic for a startup club playing in Toronto and in a UK competition.”

He continued: “I want to be ultra clear here, I think every Super League club would have a concern whether we’re viable, on and off the field. Whether we’re going to be a club that collapses in 18 months or whether we’re competitive on the field and we’re going to add to the spectacle of Super League. I get that. Being asked those questions by other Super League clubs, that’s absolutely no drama, nobody has an issue with that.

“But a club that’s only three years old, that’s not getting any central funding and has to pay for every other team’s travel and accommodation, and then is required to meet demands, some that are unrealistic, you do wonder and ask the question whether they want us in.”

However, McDermott is adamant Toronto and other expansion clubs can help the sport reach new heights moving forward.

“If it’s embraced and people see the long-ball game and the bigger picture here.

“I do know the RFL want us in and the game wants a team from Toronto in there.

“There will be some that still want it to be played along the M62 and only played alongside the M62. There will be some that are happy that London’s not in. Unfortunately, there are some people like that in the game. I’m not sure I’d accuse it of being short-sighted, I don’t think I’d go that far, I just question our vision.

“Go forward five years and if Wigan, Leeds and St Helens are still winning the Grand Final, if the same teams are in the bottom four. The game is never going to die. The game is too good, the product is too good, it’s not going to die but it’s certainly not growing.

“Wouldn’t it be good if a Super League competition had teams that started with Toronto, Toulouse, London and Barcelona, I can’t imagine how anybody isn’t excited by that.

“And these aren’t names plucked out by anybody, they’re credible teams. People in Barcelona have shown an interest after the game between Catalans and Wigan.

“For that to happen, we can’t just be in relegation battles because nobody wants to come and watch that. The opposition to that would be that doesn’t happen in football, cricket and rugby union. But those sports are a bit bigger than ours, have the resource and the TV deals behind them, we don’t.

“There’s something unique about our sport, money, or lack of. We have a lack of multi-millionaires owning clubs willing to write a deficit off each year. Most clubs have to have a very good business plan to operate. The work ethic is incredible to keep the clubs afloat, they don’t have the billionaire owner who will say they’ll write it off then give you more money to go buy the best players in the world.

“You can’t buy the best players in the world because the sport won’t allow you to.”