Salford working with New York consortium to take home game to the USA in 2018

Salford head of rugby Ian Blease has confirmed that they are working with the people behind the New York Rugby League bid to take one of their Super League fixtures to the USA this year – but it will not be their Good Friday clash with Catalans following a knock-back from clubs and the RFL.

The Red Devils had initially hoped to move next Friday’s contest with the Dragons to New York’s Red Bull Arena in June, on the same weekend England play New Zealand in Denver.

Blease, however, told League Express that the RFL and some clubs believed Salford and Catalans playing only once over Easter provided them with a ‘competitive advantage’: and the plans are now off.

He said: “We have had the knock-back from the RFL regarding some form of competitive advantage – that was the reason.

“The integrity of the game was mentioned, which is not something both sides set out to compromise. It was about promoting the sport in one of the biggest cities in the world, with our brand being splattered all across that particular area.

“We’ve done some work with Ricky and his team on the PR side of things, and they had some well-known superstars planned, were going to do a concert to boot, and it was going to be a real marquee event. Several clubs and the RFL gave us the knock-back though.”

Salford, however, have not given up in their plans to play Stateside this season. They are now exploring other potential fixtures towards the end of the regular season which could be moved – and League Express understands that even if those plans do not transpire, the club will look at their Super 8s games, too.

“We’ve been in talks about this since November and we’re still taking – we really want this to happen,” Blease said.

“We’ve got some other options, and we would still like to do it. We had negotiated that our season ticket holders would have been covered for the game in case they chose not to come to New York – but we’d also made some nice packages available for them if they’d decided they wanted to do the trip.

“Hopefully, if it happens further down the line, we can re-visit that. Catalans were on board with us, and it had a real international flavour to it, but we’re going to try and carry on regardless and get another game over there.”

Blease believes that should they manage to successfully manage to move a Super League game to New York this summer, it would have exponential benefits for both themselves as a club, and the sport as a whole.

He said: “The international window was the plan, and it was a big tick in the box when it came to exposing rugby league in a huge new area like New York.

“They’ve got their bid in, which everyone knows about, and we’re sure it would have assisted them, and Ricky is working hard in the background to see if their plans are feasible.”

Meanwhile, Wilby admits the New York team are still waiting to find out if they will be accepted for 2019 – but says they are hopeful of gaining potential mayoral support in the coming days to strengthen their claim.

“We have always said that we do not want to take the place of teams already in the structure, but come in alongside them and add value in terms of TV revenue and sponsorship. It’s nice to talk with team involved in the Boston bid who share a similar vision,” he said.

“Obviously we’re in a chicken and an egg situation at the moment, and we’re hoping that with taking a game to the city, and the mayoral support we’re working on, that those sponsors we have been speaking with will also document their interest in the team to enhance our bid.”