A six-team professional rugby league competition is set to be launched in Canada in 2022.
The Canada Co-Operative Championship Rugby League (CCCRL) will be the world’s first co-operatively owned sports league, and has been given approval by the Canadian Rugby League governing body.
Planned to launch this summer, COVID-19 has forced it back to next year when teams from the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta will take part in a short-form competition, to be hosted at Lamport Stadium, the home of Toronto Wolfpack.
Chris Coates, Founding Director of CCCRL, said: “I am beyond excited to help deliver this once in a lifetime opportunity to bring not only one professional side to Canada, but six, to significantly strengthen Canada’s national Rugby League brand, for both men’s and women’s competition.
“To deliver a professional Rugby League organization to this great Country and to create it with a model that is truly the people’s league is one that made sense and is going to be sustainable for the long term.
“The end result could not have been accomplished without the collaboration and shared vision of the CRL’s Board of Directors and the Presidents of the provincial competitions. It not only stabilizes the sport in Canada for the future; it also positions it for significant growth and success, showcasing the next generation of Rugby League stars. This will be where the next-generation plays.”
From 2023, the plan is for the league to have West Coast and Eastern Divisions, with the goals to expand and grow the league in future seasons. A total of 12 teams – six men and six women – are slated to take part.
Canada has been left without professional rugby league for the first time since 2016 due to the unfortunate demise of Toronto Wolfpack, as well as Ottawa Aces being forced to shelve their plans to join the RFL’s League One in 2021 due to the worldwide pandemic.
It is not yet known whether they will have any involvement in the CCCRL.
Canada Rugby League President, Bob Jowett, said: “The CRL are extremely excited by the launch of the CCCRL competition. This organization will provide a great opportunity for Canadian fans to watch high quality Rugby League being played in Canada and to support the continued grassroots development of the sport with a pathway right through to the professional game.
“We look forward to working with the CCCRL to assist in recruiting new and existing Rugby League talent in Canada that will showcase what the country and the game have to offer.”
Canada’s women’s team will play at the 2021 World Cup, and there are more than 360 active rugby league participants in the CRL programme, which dates back to 2010.
The co-operative league, based in Toronto, aims to deliver professional rugby league in Canada and in-turn support the national growth of the sport. It will be publicly owned, with dividends going back to its members, with a portion of profits being re-invested in to the CRL.