The consortium aiming to take professional rugby league to New York City in 2020 has revealed partnerships with Mastercard, Hilton Hotels and Virgin Atlantic – who will double up as official flight partners – if they are given the green light to enter League 1 next year.
Huddersfield-based businessman Ricky Wilby and his associate Tony Feasey presented their case to Championship and League 1 clubs at Salford on Thursday afternoon, and subsequently told the media some of the finer details of the bid, which up until now have remained secret.
When asked about partnerships and sponsors already in place, however, Wilby said:
“We’ve revealed downstairs in the meeting that our flight partner is Virgin Atlantic. They will be flying teams back and forth should we get accepted. They will be flying people premium economy, which is their equivalent of business class. We’ve also got Hilton, Mastercard, Macron and USA Rugby League ready to go if we get the green light.”
On travel arrangements for visiting players, Wilby added: “We’ll cover everything – all the costs. They get three nights accommodation, their travel and all meals paid for. We’re committing fully to it because that’s what player welfare is all about.
“One club asked about part-time players and how it would work for them, but there are daily flights in and out of Manchester and we can work with the clubs to fly players out at certain times. It’s not what we’d look to do but if certain players want to fly and different times, we’ll help.”
Wilby is hopeful the consortium will be given an answer one way or the other, before the end of the month. Championship and League 1 clubs will take a vote, by show of hands, after both the NYC and Ottawa present their cases, and thee the RFL board will make a final decision at a later date. The consortium, however, declined to reveal the identity of their financial backers.
Tony Feasey added: “As it currently stands, it comes down to the vote of the member clubs. The RFL are seeking the mood of the room, and they’re seeking financial due-diligence from us. We expect to complete that in within one to two weeks.”
Wilby also confirmed they are in early-stage discussions about broadcast deals – something the RFL and clubs have already hinted will comprise a key part of any final decision.
“We’ve got broadcast partners,” he said. “We have a technical partner – NEP – who have signed a letter of intent: they’ll turn up with the cameras and everything. We’re in discussions with ESPN+, which is a big sporting platform who are looking for content. They show a lot of rugby union. Like everyone at the moment they’re saying go and get the licence, then come back and we’ll talk.”