Elstone admits Toronto dispensation issue should have been sorted sooner

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has conceded that a decision on whether Toronto will receive salary cap dispensation has to be made as soon as possible – calling it ‘crazy’ that it is being discussed so close to the start of the new season.

The Wolfpack want dispensation on the cap to sign more players, citing challenges with having to pay players more to get them to sign for the club as a reason why they are already at the salary cap limit with a squad of just 23 contracted players.

Elstone insisted any decision on whether they are granted dispensation is ultimately down to the RFL – but seemed to suggest the matter should have been sorted long before now.

“It’s crazy that it’s being done at the end of January really,” he said.

“Clubs have built squads, set budgets and a week out from the start of the season, we’re looking at something that might impact Toronto and the rest of the league. The game should have addressed it sooner. The one thing any league needs is certainty and consistency, and to do this at a late date is not ideal.”

Elstone also admitted he is conscious the other 11 Super League clubs’ views on the matter are heard – with them immediately put at a disadvantage if Toronto are granted the flexibility to sign more players.

“They’re having a discussion with the RFL primarily – who essentially are operating the cap on Super League’s behalf,” he said.

“I’m aware of the discussions and aware of proposals which have to be ratified and shared with clubs.. we’ll see where that gets to. I think what we have to do is find the right solution for the club, but equally respect the cap that’s in place. Relegation is a factor and there’s a few clubs worried about where they will finish that are looking closely at this issue. It’s not an easy one. I have sympathy both ways but the whole thing will be resolved within a short space of time.”

Elstone has also promised that he wants to give ‘Toronto’ certainty over its future, amidst a suggestion from Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter this week that they may look to claim their share of central distribution in the future, despite initially saying they would forfeit it.

“Bob would clearly say that and I’m listening to that,” Elstone admitted. “I’m also listening to Super League clubs and formulating my own views on what that looks like. What I’m committed to do through good faith and professional discussions is give Toronto certainty about what the future looks like.

“Their admission into the RFL competitions was, in terms of how it all might unfold, a little bit loose. All we can do to Toronto is give them security about what our decision is and when it might happen. Over the next few months, I want to try and give Toronto the certainty as to what its future looks like.”

Meanwhile, Elstone has revealed that they are working hard behind the scenes to secure TV deals for games that will be held in France and Canada in 2020. Catalans are notoriously still yet to finalise an agreement with a broadcaster, and the spotlight will be on how Toronto’s home games are broadcasted when they go back to Canada.

Elstone said he believes a ‘healthy amount’ of fixtures from overseas will be shown. He said: “We’re still continuing to work on making sure that home games in Perpignan and Toronto get as much coverage as possible, but that situation is quite fluid. Certainly the big games in Canada and France will get screened and that’s important to us and the clubs from their own point of view. We’re hopeful that a healthy amount of those games will be screened.”