Featherstone Rovers want Toronto Wolfpack’s Super League place after the Canadian club sparked anger among rugby league chiefs by announcing their withdrawal for the remainder of the 2020 season.
The league’s only transatlantic club cited “overwhelming financial challenges” for their decision to temporarily withdraw from Super League.
Wolfpack had been due to resume the season against Hull KR on August 2 and their move drew a strongly-worded joint statement from Super League and the RFL.
Toronto Wolfpack withdraw from 2020 season. pic.twitter.com/SXhBJLQ4kY
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) July 20, 2020
The statement read: “Betfred Super League and the RFL are very disappointed to learn that Toronto Wolfpack will not be able to fulfil their obligations to Super League 2020.
“Super League Europe and The RFL have been in regular dialogue with the Wolfpack over the past weeks and months regarding the club’s ability to take part in the competition and firm assurances had been received as recently as last Thursday, 16 July.
“The club’s decision is especially disappointing given the imminent restart of the season.”
Despite the high-profile signing of Sonny Bill Williams, Toronto had lost their first six matches of their debut top-flight season and were facing the imminent prospect of relegation back to the Championship.
The club were already facing up to the prospect of having to cancel their remaining scheduled fixtures in Toronto, and indicated that the financial impact was too much to bare.
The club said in a statement:”Toronto Wolfpack can confirm that the club has informed both Super League Europe (SLE) and the Rugby Football League (RFL) that the team will not be restarting the campaign as scheduled on August 2.
“The Wolfpack will not participate in the conclusion of the 2020 Betfred Super League season, or in the remainder of the 2020 Challenge Cup.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, and in consideration of a range of factors specific to the club as the only transatlantic team in the league.”
Noting reduced ticket, sponsorship and game-day revenue streams, the statement added: “The COVID pandemic has presented unexpected and overwhelming financial challenges to the Wolfpack organisation.”
The club said it would work with Super League and the RFL to “understand the process” of moving into next season.
Rugby league’s mad Monday
SSE and the RFL added: “A discussion around the longer term consequences and the future of the Wolfpack in Super League will commence shortly.
Following news of Toronto’s withdrawal, Featherstone announced they had made contact with Super League and RFL officials to express their interest in joining the competition.
Rovers CEO Davide Longo said: “We were surprised that Toronto Wolfpack have had to make such a tough decision, every club within the sport has had to make challenging decisions this year and we share their disappointment in this difficult period.
📝| Rovers have made contact with Super League officials today to express their interest in joining the Super League following Toronto Wolfpack's withdrawal from the country's elite competition.
— Featherstone Rovers (@FevRoversRLFC) July 20, 2020
“However, it leaves the rest of the Super League clubs with an uneven competition, disrupting the integrity of the division in 2020.
“Rovers have a squad littered with experienced players and ambitions to strengthen the squad if an opportunity presents itself.
“Featherstone were unbeaten going into lockdown and we feel a shot this season is worthy of our club’s efforts over recent years.”
Rovers, who were beaten in the 2019 Championship Grand Final by Toronto, remain undefeated in this season’s Betfred Championship and are due to play Wakefield Trinity in the sixth round of the Coral Challenge Cup.