Ottawa bid to join League One to create Toronto Wolfpack rivalry

James Gordon

Eric Perez has revealed that he wants to bring professional rugby league to Ottawa next season.

The entrepreneur, who helped set up the Toronto Wolfpack and is still on the club’s board but would stand down if the Ottawa plan comes to fruition, has acquired the Hemel Stags’ licence and hopes that this will help to fast track his new project in to League One.

Perez says he has submitted the paperwork to the RFL, who earlier this week said that they had two bids that will be presented to clubs for feedback.

He said: “I’m sure it will be received really well. It’s different from a new application (for a team). We’re relocating a current member.

“They’ve already got a Toronto team so it makes sense to further expand in Canada and, to me, Ottawa’s the next logical choice.”

They are working with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which already owns teams in the Canadian Football League, Ontario Hockey League and United Soccer League, as well as the TD Place stadium and arena.

Perez added: “We’re working with an incredible partner … who are super-excited to bring professional rugby league to Ottawa and to facilitate and help us by allowing us to be part of their incredible infrastructure.

“(It’s) far enough (away from Toronto) that it doesn’t impede on their market but close enough to be a major rival.”

Toronto’s first season was back in 2017, and they romped to the League One title, but missed out on successive promotions and a place in Super League by losing the Million Pound Game to London Broncos last season.

Hemel withdrew from League One at the end of 2018, and have been named as part of the new Southern Conference League announced by the RFL recently.

Parties interested in joining the professional ranks have previously been instructed that purchasing an existing club’s licence is an easier route in to the structure, than trying to create a new place.

A New York bid is also being considered.