From Canada to Cornwall: Ottawa Aces’ relocation confirmed

LEAGUE 1 will have a Cornish presence next season after the relocation of Ottawa Aces to Penryn, a few miles North-West of Falmouth.

The club, to be known as Cornwall RLFC, whose roots lie in the old Hemel Stags, had originally planned to play out of the 24,000-capacity TD Place Stadium in the Canadian city, but will instead be based at the more modest Memorial Ground, home to Cornwall’s oldest rugby union club Penryn.

Back in March 2019, it was announced that a consortium from Canada, led by Wolfpack founder Eric Perez (pictured), had purchased Hemel’s licence.

Perez had a partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks gridiron team and ice hockey’s Ottawa 67s and runs the stadium.

The following June, after considering the possibility of entering League 1 in 2020, it was announced the club would work towards a debut campaign in 2021.

With former Catalans Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous lined up, the pandemic put paid to that notion, and last November, the same month Super League clubs rejected Toronto’s bid to be readmitted into the top flight after their withdrawal midway through 2020 due to financial difficulties, it was announced that Ottawa’s entry to the third tier was being delayed until 2022.

Players already signed by the Aces, such as Tom Gilmore, Matty Fozard, Louis Jouffret, Dec O’Donnell and Sam Wilde, were allowed to join other clubs for the 2021 season.

Last month, the club revealed they were leaving Canada and relocating to an unspecified location in England “and a more stable operating environment”.

That has now been confirmed as Penryn, which is a 67-mile trip from Plymouth and 180 miles from Bristol, once touted as a city ripe for Rugby League expansion.

While the county has a long history of playing rugby union, a community Rugby League club, Cornish Rebels, has existed since 2013.

“Cornwall RLFC will be made up of the very best Cornish rugby talent, where that is both practical and feasible,” said the club in a statement.

Club director Colin Groves said: “This is a landmark day in the history of Rugby League. For the first time in our sports history we are truly a national game.

“Cornwall is a place that was made for Rugby League and, finally, after 126 years, we are proud to bring one of the most exiting team sports on the planet here.

“There is no doubt in our minds that Cornwall has a tremendous talent pool and we will unearth many Cornish Rugby League heroes.

“This is a club that represents all of Cornwall, a true regional club. We are buzzing at the prospect of building something special here.”

RFL chairman Simon Johnson said: “The RFL Board have approved the club’s request to relocate as it takes the Betfred League 1 competition, and the sport of Rugby League, into a new area.

“It is an area which shares many of the characteristics of the traditional Rugby League heartlands in the North, and has a renowned passion for rugby.

“This is an exciting opportunity to take our great sport to a completely new audience in a beautiful part of the country, and for our clubs and supporters to embrace that.”