Ottawa is a step closer to getting a transatlantic rugby league team.
The governing body of rugby league in the United Kingdom has agreed to continue studying the feasibility of putting teams in Ottawa and New York. The decision was made Thursday at a special meeting of Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs in Salford, England.
"The clubs were in principle supportive, by a comfortable majority, of the proposals for both Ottawa and New York to join the competitions, and for the RFL (Rugby Football League) board to continue to exercise its discretion to negotiate with both clubs, and to make a decision in due course," Simon Johnson, who chairs the Championship and League 1 forum, said in a statement.
The RFL convened the meeting "to assess the mood of the clubs," as had been done before the Toronto Wolfpack were admitted to the third-tier League 1 in 2017. The Wolfpack won promotion to the Championship that season, narrowly missing out on graduating to the elite Super league last year.
Toronto native Eric Perez, who helped bring the sport to North America via the Wolfpack, is part of a Canadian consortium that has acquired the Hemel Stags team and is looking to move it to Ottawa.
Hemel withdrew from League 1 for the 2019 season with an eye to returning in 2020. Perez's plan is to install the team in Ottawa, playing out of TD Place Stadium.
Perez's ownership group is working with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which owns the CFL Redblacks, OHL 67's and USL Championship's Ottawa Fury FC (USL). OSEG also manages TD Place stadium and arena.
Hemel is a team in name only right now. Its players were on contracts that have since expired.
The Stags debuted in 1981 in Hemel Hempstead, located 35 kilometres northwest of London. The club says it will continue to operate a community rugby league side, the Hemel Hempstead Amateur Rugby League Club.
Perez originally hatched the idea of bringing the sport of rugby league to Canada on a fish-and-chips wrapper. And as founder and CEO, he was the face of the Wolfpack when its blueprint was announced in 2016.
But he has since stepped away from the team to work on further expanding the game while remaining on the team's board of directors.
David Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur who heads up the Wolfpack ownership group, has taken a more prominent public role.
In addition to Toronto, the RFL currently has two French clubs in the Catalan Dragons (in the Super League) and Toulouse Olympique (in the Championship).
Rugby league is the 13-man version of the game, distinct from 15-man rugby union.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press