Dave Craven: League could do worse than grab a slice of the Big Apple

York City Knights v Toronto Wolfpack
York City Knights v Toronto Wolfpack
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FLICKING through some old Rothmans rugby league yearbooks recently to do a little research – yes, honest – I found myself drawn to some of the old club names that are no longer around.

There was Blackpool Borough, Bramley, Huyton and Cardiff, for instance, from the 1981-82 season.

That campaign another side now defunct – Carlisle – were just starting out yet went on to enjoy great success that term, their own Mick Morgan becoming the inaugural Man of Steel winner.

It seems surreal then to think that teams from New York and Ottawa could be gracing future editions of the tome’s modern equivalent – hopefully with more staying power.

The sport’s expansion is very much a subject on the table again and not the sort from days of old when ventures into Sheffield and Mansfield seemed daring.

On the back of Toronto Wolfpack’s introduction the prospect of more North American sides being welcomed in by the 
Rugby Football League is a very real one.

Ricky Wilby, representing a consortium of UK and US-based businessmen, first tabled a bid to form a professional club in New York 18 months ago and will now finally get a chance to present it to the Championship and League 1 clubs.

Similarly, Canadian Eric Perez – who founded Wolfpack three years ago before relinquishing control to David Argyle – is now making a move of his own to put Ottawa on the professional rugby league map.

He has bought the licence of Hemel Stags and wants to relocate them to the Canadian capital with hopes of playing in League One in 2020.

Consultations with the clubs will follow and the RFL are considering both applications. You would expect at least one to get the green light.

Like with Toronto, New York and Ottawa have vowed to cover all travel and hotel costs of the away teams.

New York are further ahead with their plans and their bid states they have significant sponsorship deals lined up ready to go if they get the nod.

There will be plenty of people opposed to the idea and you can understand some of the doubts expressed.

However, if the plans are as rigorous and solid as claimed, the question is not should rugby league allow them in, but rather can it afford not to?

The sport is not cash-rich and never has been.

It needs new investment, new ideas and new people to help drive it forward.

Include in that new countries, not just new cities.

Clearly there will be question marks about how such new clubs intend to operate, how they will build a fan-base, what they will bring to the competition and logistically there will be plenty of obstacles to overcome.

But, still, if these investors want to try to make it work, let them have the chance to do so.

Everyone knows the potential the North American market will bring for new broadcast deals, new audiences and obviously helping to increase the size of the player pool as well.

The current clubs and the RFL need to be convinced, but hopefully they will be.

Unfortunately, expansion plans closer to home – Oxford and Gloucestershire All Golds – have failed, joining the likes of Huyton and Mansfield, while Hemel’s future is certainly opaque.

So, let’s look further afield. Be bold. In all reality, for the sport, there’s nothing to lose.