League Express editor MARTYN SADLER reacts to the news that a new club in Ottawa now looks likely to enter the RFL’s competitions in 2021, rather than 2020.
Anyone who gets the chance should view this week’s Rugby League Backchat programme on the Freesports TV channel this Thursday at 5.00pm.
And if you can’t get access to Freesports, then you will be able to view the programme on this website on Saturday morning at 9.00am.
The programme is presented by my colleague Matthew Shaw, and this week’s guests include me and Wakefield Trinity star Tinirau Arona. But the main reason for watching the show is the appearance of Toronto Wolfpack general manager (England) Martin Vickers.
If anyone had any doubt about the wisdom of bringing a Canadian club into the RFL, then I suspect your doubts will disappear after listening to what Martin has to say. He details the impact the Wolfpack have made in the city of Toronto, and he outlines the potential viewing audiences that the club is capable of generating.
If we ever want Rugby League to be a major commercial success, then, after listening to Martin, I suspect that most people will say that we want more of the same.
Of course there is a second Canadian club that currently has an application with the RFL to join its competitions in 2020 or 2021, with the latter season now looking more likely, given some of the final details that are still being negotiated after the Ottawa club bought out the membership of the Hemel Stags.
The Wolfpack joined the RFL when Nigel Wood was the governing body’s chief executive.
So it’s fair to say that the club is part of Nigel’s legacy, and he deserves great credit for being able to recognise that the proposal for a TransAtlantic club, which to many people would have looked ridiculous, was actually a concept that was actually ingenious, which would give Rugby League access to completely new markets.
The current CEO of the RFL is Ralph Rimmer and his main aim must now be to consolidate the progress that has already been made with the Wolfpack by bringing in the new Ottawa club, located in the capital city of Canada. The new club will be supported by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which already owns three major sports teams in the city.
I don’t know whether Ralph will be able to get the new club over the line, no doubt in the face of opposition from some other clubs that are members of the RFL.
But I hope he can.
In fact I would suggest that the way Ralph deals with the Ottawa application and the application from the proposed New York club will be one of the defining issues of his leadership of the RFL, comparable perhaps only to the issue of whether he can secure a profitable new TV deal for the Championship competition from 2022.
I’m sure that, like me, most Rugby League fans, especially those in Canada, will be backing him every inch of the way.
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