Canadians confident of being competitive in League One

The RFL has received an application from Rugby League Canada to enter a team based in Toronto into the Kingstone Press League One competition from the 2016 season.

And their proposal, with an offer to sponsor the competition as a whole, was put forward at a meeting of Championship clubs in Leeds last Wednesday.

Eric Perez, the Chairman of Rugby League Canada, is confident that the globalisation of Rugby League competitions is the way forward.

“We are proposing to create the first transcontinental sports team – the first North American side in a European league. It will open up markets that were unthinkable recently,” Perez told League Express.

“For the last four years we have been playing international matches in Toronto and we are now averaging almost 7,000 for every Test,” said Perez.

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“We also have our own TV programme ‘The Rugby League Show’ which has 90,000 viewers every week and reaches 170,000 for our Test matches,” he added.

“We have sponsorship deals with Fosters (brewery) and other major companies, and we have a business plan that will enable us to offer free travel to Canada for our opponents and free accommodation when they get to Toronto.

“We will fly them out on a Thursday, play on Saturday and they will fly back on Sunday, all expenses paid.

“And we will give each club a block of seats in the stand, and if they can sell those tickets, any money they make will go back into their club.

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“The clubs will also be able to offer travel packages and make more money.

“And we are offering to sponsor the competition to the tune of £200,000.”

Perez is confident that he could put a team together that would be competitive against League One clubs and that would draw significant crowds.

“Stuart Donlan coaches our international side, and he is confident we would be competitive,” he added.

Former Super League player Donlan guided Canada, known as the Wolverines, to a 52-14 win over USA at the Lamport Stadium in Toronto in August.

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The former Castleford and Salford assistant coach, who also works for the Leigh Centurions Foundation, spent nine weeks in Canada with games against the RAF, England Lionhearts (North West) and Jamaica, leading up to the Colonial Cup encounter against the USA.

“The players learnt a lot from those games and from some video sessions seeing how English players play,” Donlan told League Express.

“Some of the Canadians were only playing their fourth or fifth game and their knowledge of the game is the big difference. There’s a nine-team domestic league, and I’ve also seen domestic games with some being sent to me through Dropbox before I went to Canada.

“There’s a lot of interest and the fans are fanatical. Over the four games you could tell that the crowds were getting more knowledgeable and the atmosphere was fantastic with 7,500 at the last game.

“There’s a lot of hard work gone into the promotion of the game. They have a TV show each week with highlights of their own games, NRL and Super League.

“The people involved are 100 per cent into Rugby League. Their dream is to get a team into League One and grow from there. Their financial backers are wealthy people and it’s not just a news story. If they get the go-ahead they will make it happen.”