RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer has insisted that Toronto Wolfpack will not be in this year’s Challenge Cup – despite the Wolfpack’s owner, David Argyle, admitting they would be keen to hold discussions with the governing body after a resolution was found to allow Catalans to defend the cup in 2019.
The Wolfpack, along with Toulouse, insisted some time ago that they would not be willing to place down a cash bond to enter the cup which would cover any losses if the final fell short of its projected targets – like it did last year when Catalans reached Wembley.
Catalans have since found a resolution with the RFL following a high-profile dispute, and the Wolfpack have reiterated that they would be keen to enter the competition if they could find a similar arrangement with the game’s governing body. However, Rimmer has denied there is a chance of them being admitted.
“No,” Rimmer insisted. “It’s really straightforward, they know what the situation is and there’s been no further discussions – so the competition is as you see it.
“I like David a lot, he’s got a twinkle in his eye – but they won’t be in the Challenge Cup this year. All the structures have been worked out for the cup and they’re aware of that.”
Rimmer’s comments appear to be in direct contrast of Argyle’s – and the Wolfpack’s Brian Noble’s – hopes that Toronto could still play a part in this season’s competition, however.
Argyle said at Tuesday’s season launch: “We’d love to take part in the Challenge Cup. Discussions with the RFL are ongoing and we’d love to participate.
“We add to the global eyeballs if we are playing, given that Toronto is a global brand like London is. Add rugby to that and people want to watch it, so I do think it’s important. We’ll have constructive dialogue wit the RFL on the best way to manage what they need, which is a full Wembley, and what we need as a game, which is more eyes on us around the globe.”
Noble was equally optimistic, saying: “We’d love to take part in the Challenge Cup this year. I’m interested in the ‘unique deal’ Catalans have managed to secure and I would hope there’s still some talks to go, genuinely.
“Clearly today there will have to be some talks about the Challenge Cup, but I’ve said it before publicly that it’s bonkers these steps have been taken. I don’t think it does anything worthwhile for the game and it’s clearly a financial decision on someone’s part. All I can say is that I think Toronto have shown they’re committed to the game of rugby league financially and publicly and we’d like to be in the Challenge Cup: full stop.”
Argyle has also revealed that Toronto have not given up hope of playing games in major European cities in the near future. They had initially hoped to take games to places such as Copenhagen, Belgrade and Dublin this season – and while that now won’t happen in 2019, Argyle admits nothing is off the table for the coming years.
He said: “There were so many things to do this off-season, we didn’t have the depth in our front office to organise it. The will is to go to Belgrade, Copenhagen and Dublin and other places and take the places to other European cities. To do a game in Spain would be fantastic, so hopefully we’ll be well-organised to start the discussions for the future.
“We could have done it this year but there’s been so much going on with a new deal with Sky, a new coach and heavy recruitment.”