Clubs to have say on New York stagong rugby league

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The man behind the attempt to establish a professional rugby league club in New York is confident he can win the support of clubs.

Huddersfield entrepreneur Ricky Wilby, who represents a consortium of UK- and US-based businessmen, lodged a business plan with the Rugby Football League 18 months ago and that will now be put to Championship and League One clubs.

The RFL are also considering a move by Toronto founder Eric Perez to relocate Hemel to North America following his successful takeover of the former League One club.

“We’re grateful to the board of the RFL for considering our application and thankful it is deemed strong enough to present to the clubs,” said Wilby.

“Hopefully this will be the first step towards getting the franchise off the ground.”

Both Wilby and Perez have ambitions to reach Super League with their clubs, but are content to enter at League One level – as Toronto did so successfully in 2017 – and hope to make the start line in 2020.

A statement from the governing body said: “Both applications are judged to have the potential to help deliver the RFL’s strategic vision.

“They are at different stages, but a degree of further due diligence and assessment is required on both to ensure that the financial and business plans presented are deliverable.

“In addition the board recognises the importance of further expansion having the support of the other clubs.

“Accordingly the board has asked each of the consortia to present to, and take questions from, the existing Betfred Championship and League One clubs, after which the RFL will gauge support.”

An RFL delegation, led by former chief executive Nigel Wood, visited New York in January 2018 and submitted reports to the governing body.

New York intend to stage matches at the Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls, and have promised to cover all travel and hotel costs of the away teams.

Wilby says the consortium have received pledges of support from the mayor of Harrison, the district of New Jersey that includes the Red Bull Arena, and have lucrative sponsorship deals lined up.

He revealed the first task on getting the green light would be to appoint a head coach, who has already been lined up.

Bob Brown, Hemel’s founder and chairman, confirmed that ownership of Hemel Stags (2016) Ltd , the company that operates the League One team, has been acquired by a Canadian consortium, but will not impact on the Stags community club at Pennine Way.

Perez remains a shareholder of Toronto, but no longer has any involvement and has spent the last 18 months on his next project.