Ottawa given green light from RFL but New York must be patient

RUGBY League’s expansion plans are moving forward with Ottawa given the go-ahead in principle to enter League One in 2020 – but New York have more work to do before they can join up.

Toronto Wolfpack are set to be followed into League One by a new team from Ottawa in 2020. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Toronto Wolfpack are set to be followed into League One by a new team from Ottawa in 2020. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Initially it had been suggested that both could get the green light for next season after impressing the Rugby Football League’s member clubs with their presentations last month.

However, the RFL’s board of directors have ruled it is too soon for New York.

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Canadian Eric Perez, the founder of Super League hopefuls Toronto Wolfpack, has been told he can relocate Hemel Stags to Canadian capital Ottawa in time to start playing next February. A statement from the RFL said: “The application has been accepted in principle – although both the RFL and the consortia have agreed that some further work is required before it can be confirmed that the Stags will be ready to start the 2020 season in Ottawa.

“With regard the New York bid, the RFL and the consortium have agreed entry into League One in time for 2020 is not achievable without placing the club under undue pressure, as it is a start-up operation without the benefit of existing operations already in place, and due to some change in the ownership structure during the process.

“The RFL has therefore encouraged the club to work towards entry into League One in 2021.”

Ricky Wilby, the Huddersfield entrepreneur behind the New York bid, indicated his consortium would be happy to wait for another year.

“We are pleased to have got this far,” he said. “In terms of timing 2021 is the right decision.”

Meanwhile, Super League players convened at Anfield yesterday ahead of the annual Magic Weekend with officials admitting it is set to draw a record low crowd on its first visit to Liverpool.

However, Super League insists it will break even with chief commercial officer Rhodri Jones expecting a crowd of around 50,000 over two days at Anfield.

He said. “We’ve done alright in the last week and we’re hopeful there is a late surge as there was at the Etihad, where we sold circa 15,000 tickets in the last two weeks.

“We’ll be around 50,000 I think by the time we come around to the end of Sunday, which will be slightly below aspirations and expectations, but you’ve got to think of the positives out of it all.”

The previous aggregate low of 52,043 was at Murrayfield, Edinburgh in 2010.