Toronto Wolfpack owner fears Super League expulsion and tells players to find new clubs

Toronto Wolfpack owner David Argyle has warned players he fears they will be kicked out of Super League following their withdrawal from the 2020 season.

Argyle addressed the club’s employees in a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon following their decision to pull out of the remainder of the campaign and told players he believes demotion to the Championship is the most likely outcome.

He told them he expects a decision to be made within days rather than weeks.

That would mean the players’ contracts would be null and void and Argyle told the squad they were free to sign for other clubs as a result of the current situation should they be able to find deals elsewhere.

The club cited astronomic financial challenges as the reason behind their decision to step aside, but Argyle conceded the repercussions could see them ousted from the competition next year.

Super League said in a statement that ‘a discussion around the longer-term consequences and the future of the Wolfpack in Super League will commence shortly’.

Argyle is understood to have told them there are four different scenarios; their place in Super League is retained, that they have to return next season in either the Championship or League 1, or the worst possible scenario would be that their licence would be revoked completely.

Their Super League counterparts, many of whom have been vocal in their criticism of the club, are thought to be angry about their decision to withdraw and fear the repercussions it will have on Sky’s distribution money, with clubs wary it could result in further rebates having already lost £266,000 worth of Sky funding next year.

One thing stacked in Toronto’s favour is that they don’t currently command any of that Sky funding, which means each club receives an additional figure in the region of £150,000.

The fact the Championship may be null and void could also make it problematic to decide who replaces them, though a decision on the second-tier, as well as promotion and relegation, is due on July 23rd.

During the call, Argyle also explained the club’s situation regarding late pay. All staff are yet to be paid for the month of June and were told a payment is now not likely until the end of the week. The pandemic has resulted in Argyle facing challenges selling assets used for cash flow, while Toronto’s inability to gain ticket revenue, their primary source of income, has escalated the problem.

But Argyle insisted he would honour their pay despite not playing and would pay for the club’s overseas players to fly home, with all of them due to travel back before the end of the month. He is also understood to have told players he will pay them what they are entitled to even if they find deals for the rest of the season, though some players are thought to be considering leaving permanently if the opportunity arises.

Argyle also said he would like to be involved in the club next season.

Toronto said in a statement: “The COVID pandemic has presented unexpected and overwhelming financial challenges to the Wolfpack organization. Greatly reduced ticket, sponsorship, merchandise and game-day revenue streams have resulted from the loss of all 11 of the team’s home Super League games in Toronto. The Wolfpack would be left covering significant additional costs simply to complete a season of games in the UK including COVID testing, stadium rentals, medical costs and player pay increases to align with the rest of the league.

“Player and staff payroll, an issue of recent media attention, has been guaranteed by Wolfpack majority owner David Argyle and is secured by a personal guarantee to the RFL. Refunds for all 2020 single-game tickets, as well as season membership refunds that have been requested by individual fans, will be returned by the club to Ticketmaster in the near future in order for the refund process to be fulfilled.”

Super League now faces a number of important decisions with the season set to restart in less than a fortnight. Featherstone Rovers have expressed an interest in taking their place in the competition. There is also the issue of deciding what happens with regards to Toronto’s pre-lockdown results, though they had lost all of their Super League games.