Potential Toronto Wolfpack owner willing to play 2021 season in United Kingdom

·3 min read

The potential new owner of the Toronto Wolfpack has offered to play the 2021 season in the United Kingdom.

In a letter to Super League and the Rugby Football League, Carlo LiVolsi says playing in the U.K. next year "will allow us time to assess and evaluate the business in Canada ahead of achieving the 2022 to 2025 budget/forecast detailed in the original plan."

To that end, he said he has commissioned a top U.K. financial services company to work with his chief financial officer on a 2021 scenario that would see the team playing at a U.K stadium.

Rugby league authorities are scheduled to meet Monday to decide the fate of the financially troubled transatlantic team. LiVolsi, a Toronto businessman, is expected to speak virtually at the meeting.

"I still feel the opportunity for expansion into the East Coast cities of the United States is a natural progression, and that the Pack and other North American teams enhance the value of every team in Super League," LiVolsi wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

The Wolfpack have been in limbo since standing down July 20, saying the team could not afford to resume play for the remainder of the season. Players and staff have not been paid since June 10.

Majority owner David Argyle, unable to fund the club, has stepped away. LiVolsi hopes to buy the franchise, providing it is allowed to remain in the English top tier. He also wants Toronto to get its share of the central distribution funding that is currently split by the other 11 clubs.

That central distribution funding is worth about 2.3 million pounds ($4 million) per team in a normal year. It is drawn primarily from TV revenue with a portion from sponsorships.

The Wolfpack submitted a new business plan in September, with the Super League board responding by asking for more information from the franchise.

The Super League board, meanwhile, has been working on updating an analysis of ``the viability of rugby league in Canada and North America.''

Toronto has been behind the 8-ball since Day 1, having agreed to pay travel and accommodation costs for visiting teams. Because of the pandemic, it has not played on this side of the Atlantic this year.

Toronto started in 2017 in the Betfred League 1, the third tier of English rugby league. The team won promotion to the second-tier Championship and then Super League. It was 0-6-0 in the top tier when play was suspended in mid-March due to the pandemic.

Super League resumed play with 11 teams on Aug. 2, expunging Toronto's results from the standings.

In his letter, LiVolsi offers to accept a two-point deduction at the start of the 2021 season "on the understanding there will be no further sanctions regardless of what happens to the old company and/or David Argyle."

LiVolsi says he will provide documentation confirming his net worth if the team is reinstated.

He also said Super League clubs can begin working on partnerships with his Wolf Grooming beauty line once the Wolfpack are back in the league.

LiVolsi writes he wants "to forge a strong partnership with the other owners and (we) believe in a synergistic approach which should yield greater results for Super League."

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2020

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press