Canadian firm slams Toronto, RFL over debt debacle

Exclusive: A Canadian company owed more than £170,000 by Toronto Wolfpack has taken aim at the defunct club and the leadership of the RFL and Super League over the issue.

Television production business iLink Media Group has successfully sued the Wolfpack in Canada for unpaid work for covering the club’s matches in 2018.

iLink supplied all of the mobile facilities and TV production for all of Toronto’s matches during the that season. But the company claims it was never paid for its work and took the club to court in 2019.

It won its claim in the Albert Court of Queen’s Bench and now has had that judgment registered in the Ontario courts against the Wolfpack.

But John Phillips, the co-owner of iLink, admits that because of Toronto’s delaying tactics and the impact of Covid-19 on the speed of court matters, he and his business will likely receive nothing.

“Had we not suffered the erroneous decision of one judge in Ontario and the Ontario justice system’s unwillingness to engage in virtual hearings for non-urgent matters, we would have had a judgment as early as August of 2020 and could have moved toward collection while the team might still have had some assets to collect,” Phillips said.

“But since then it’s become very obvious that the Wolfpack have done everything they can to not pay their suppliers, including us, a number of individual freelancers, team staff, players and even their former chief operating officer. Even though the business of the Wolfpack continues to be active, I suspect there’s not much there for us to collect any more.”

iLink’s battle to get paid by Toronto has gone on for nearly three years. During that time Phillips says his company has had minimal contact with Wolfpack owner David Argyle and zero contact with Carlo LiVolsi, the Canadian who made a bid to take over the ailing club in 2020.

“During the process we reached out to David Argyle directly once and he responded almost immediately, saying he would call us to chat the next day about finding a way to reach a settlement and then we ever heard from him again,” he said.

“Other than that, despite David Argyle acknowledging our lawsuit publicly in the media in 2019 and his wish to reach an amicable settlement, nobody from the Wolfpack has ever reached out to us to try to settle this.

“And we made it very clear on multiple occasions publicly that we would have entertained an amicable and fair settlement to avoid the hassles of this having to end up in court. Believe me, if we could have avoided this, we would have.

“At no point did we have any communication with Mr LiVolsi, so I have no knowledge of whether or not he was even aware of our claim against the Wolfpack.”

Phillips is critical of the lack of leadership shown by both Ralph Rimmer and Robert Elstone over the matter. Toronto owe several million of pounds to former players, staff and creditors of the club, which was denied re-entry into Super League for the 2021 season.

“At one point the Wolfpack blatantly lied to the league that they had contacted us to try to settle the matter, but as I noted, they have not at any point done so,” he said.

“I am extremely disappointed that the league was not willing to intervene in the situation, given that it’s my understanding that allowing a team from Toronto into the league was somewhat of a gamble on their part and not well received by the other teams.”

Phillips is dismayed that someone of Argyle’s financial and business stature is “allowed to get away with treating people like this”.

“I run a business with a high degree of moral responsibility to honour my commitments so it bears noting that with the exception of one supplier who is ‘on hold’ pending the outcome of this action, all of our freelance production crew and all of our suppliers with relation to the Wolfpack production have been paid in full at our expense,” he said.

“As a freelancer myself doing sports production now for over 25 years, I know that most of these guys are living pay cheque to pay cheque and not knowing where the next job will come from. so I could not run a business knowing I’d be hanging them out to dry for not honouring my commitments to them.

“Let’s just say that the old cliché ‘it’s just business’ is not in my vocabulary. Something Mr Argyle might want to consider when he looks at what this venture has done to his business reputation in Ontario.

“We went over and above to try to ensure that a good product was put to air and we achieved that for a potential international audience of over 140 million people. We even worked well into 2019 on good faith as we’d been told we would again have the production contract for the 2019 season, to plan with the team for the broadcasts along with the addition of an in-arena screen and show for the fans at Lamport.

“But after months of the ‘cheque’s in the mail’ or ‘we’ll have the money next week’ excuses, just three weeks before the first broadcast in April, it became blindingly clear that we had to pull the plug and not roll our production mobile out to Toronto.

“They went on to hire two other suppliers for the broadcasts – one from the UK for production and one from Canada for technical. We do know that the UK team had to threaten on several occasions just days before the game to pull out of broadcasts in order to get paid for their services.

“At one point there was a media story that Mr Argyle had agreed to personally guarantee the salaries of his players but why was that not extended to his contractors and suppliers?

“Allegedly the guy’s a billionaire in oil and mining. Surely he could clear all this up and never miss the couple million it would take for him to cover off all the outstanding bills he owes.

“I think that the Wolfpack as a unit and the sport of Rugby has a relatively strong and very energetic following in Canada. If anyone has a terrible reputation from a business standpoint in my opinion, I think most fans know to look past the team itself and would be justified in pointing their finger straight at the owner for the state the Wolfpack is currently in.”

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