Expansionist Blog – Is the Toronto Wolfpack concept good or bad?

Their inaugural season is now over, so are Toronto Wolfpack the real deal?

Well, they are certainly looking that way.

Eyebrows were raised when it was announced in April 2016 that Canadian franchise Toronto Wolfpack would be joining the Kingstone Press League 1 this season.

It was a massive statement of intent and the team became the first trans-Atlantic team in professional sport.

They have impressed in their first ever season as a professional Rugby League team and have secured promotion to the Kingstone Press Championship for 2018, losing just one game all season.

A lot of credit has to go down to the Wolfpack’s CEO Eric Perez. He is a Torontonian through and through and has an overriding passion for Rugby League.

He has made his dream become a reality along with the help of Head Coach Paul Rowley and Director of Rugby Brian Noble.

And the Toronto club are paying for everything themselves. There is no help or money coming in from the RFL, which is quite impressive to see as the rise of the Wolfpack actually costs the sport nothing at all.

Other clubs don’t have to pay a penny to travel over for their games against Toronto. This is key to the club actually becoming successful, because if low budget teams in League 1 had to pay, then the franchise probably wouldn’t have gone ahead.

What does seem to be a slight issue though is part-time players from their opponents getting time off work to go over to Canada for four or five days. We have already seen players struggle being able to go to Olympique Toulouse and this forces coaches to send weaker teams.

However, the Betfred Super League is the ultimate goal for Toronto so can they gain back to back promotions and get to the top-flight at the first time of asking?

The rise of the club has been astonishing and it could play a massive part in Rugby League’s future. The appetite for sport in Canada is remarkable, with them already having well-known hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer and Canadian football teams.

And there was already an appetite for Rugby League. The Colonial Cup clash between the Canadian Wolverines and the USA Hawks already gained over 6,000 spectators so imagine the figures it could get next time around following the Wolfpack effect.

We could potentially see over 10,000 in attendance at the Lamport Stadium.

There are plenty of people who thought Toronto were just another franchise club who wouldn’t last long at the start of the season but now there are not so many, given the progress they’ve made.

We have seen expansion sides like Crusaders and Paris Saint-Germain who have failed in the past due to low crowds, financial issues, poor form and a lack of a permanent home ground.

But, like the Catalans Dragons, the Wolfpack are on their way to becoming a successful franchise.

Toronto are gaining consistent attendances of over 7,000 and look to have a very good home in the Lamport Stadium. They are backed well financially due to some big-name sponsors and directors as well as enjoying a great season on the field.

And another thing, they even held trials in Philadelphia, Vancouver, Tampa, Toronto and Jamaica in the off-season as they scoured for talent for the team.

It’s safe to say there is a lot of passion and enthusiasm behind the Wolfpack and it will be interesting to see where they are this time in 2020.

What are your thoughts on the Toronto Wolfpack project? Let us know in the comments below.

8 Comments

  1. I think you will find that the clubs have to pay there own way there the rfl should look after British teams who are the backbone of the game what happens when mr moneybags has had enough

  2. As a Rugby League supporter from outside the ‘heartlands’ I endorse expansion.
    If we as a sport can show people outside our traditional areas that we have a great game, more power to the people/teams involved.

  3. The trouble is Chris, no one in the media cares. it is all run by the toffs and they have no place for RL because they know given fair coverage and column inches RL would eclipse RU at club level. Take the Challenge cup final, BBC breakfast sport couldn’t even be bothered to mention it and they televising the event! RL can’t even expand 10 miles out of yhe heart lands or get local TV to regularly broadcast scores. Infact we have gone backwards, in the 80s and 90s BBC look North would put all the rsults on TV on a Sunday for all the regions teams regardless of division, now we are lucky to get a SL score.

    • You are right Dave. The Newcastle journal on a monday morning has local amateur cricket scores but nothing about the Thunder fixture the previous day.

  4. I get that there is much resentment about expansion from the traditional NRFU areas however expansion is the logical step when you consider that in “the heartlands” you have 31-odd teams serving a generously approximate population of 14MM, not even counting first class cricket, two EPL teams in Manchester alone not to mention all the others in the area; the sport dollars are exhausted there. Toronto (and its environs), on the other hand, has only seven professional sports teams serving a population of 9MM people within an hour and a half drive. In what other way can you reach 9MM underserved sports hungry fans AND expand sponsorship, merchandising and TV rights money than expansion and where but an underserved sports market like Toronto and the Golden Horeshoe?

  5. The resentment against expansion is one of those things that is totally understandable and completely illogical ……. if you want the game to break free of the restrictions imposed by the British media on our sport. It won’t do it on it’s own but it will go a long way to help.

  6. I support the Toronto expansion, as it breaks into a new market in a totally novel way. However, it needs to build up the Ontario base for amateur and school teams, which will take a generation. After that it will be part of the culture. Simply putting in a professional team of imported players won’t work without a host of other activities. It is a long haul, but starting is crucial. We have to remember that Australia was the first overseas expansion. Has that worked?

  7. While I support expansion, I am a little tired of the non stop plaudits going their way. I say that because of the underhanded way the have recruited players, which of course have resulted in no action or comment from the RFL. Firstly there was Jake Emmitt from Leigh who was released from his contract, to pursue his Australian dream, which was in fact a 3 week holiday. I am pleased the London Broncos chairman has spoken out regarding the signing of Ackers from their team, after he had been compassionately released because of “home sickness”. Watch this space for a winger joining them soon.

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