Robert Elstone defends right of clubs to vote on future of Toronto Wolfpack

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone has defended the right of clubs to decide the future of Toronto but admitted the league is undergoing a review of its governance.

The Canadian club’s application to re-join the top flight for 2021 was thrown out at a meeting of the Super League board, which effectively comprises the other 11 teams.

Only Leeds, St Helens and Catalans Dragons voted in favour of the Wolfpack, along with the Rugby Football League, which has only one vote, and that has sparked fury among the supporters of the Ontario franchise, who point to average crowds of almost 7,000 in the club’s last season in the Championship in 2019.

Elstone witnessed first hand the atmosphere generated by raucous fans on match day at the Lamport Stadium but questioned the true value of turnstile revenue.

“It was a terrific experience when I went and I’ve said that before,” Elstone said. “But in terms of its average attendance and what that generated in revenue, I don’t think there was ever real clarity.”

Elstone says the Wolfpack were given every opportunity to demonstrate their case for re-entry and he was aware of the likely backlash in the event of a no vote.

“We gave Toronto three months to prepare its submission and we helped them with it,” he said.

“We took the decision very seriously and very thoroughly and part of that was our awareness about what the reaction to that was. We had to do what was right for Super League.

“The executive came up with a strong recommendation on Toronto and the truth is there’s a governance review under way at Super League.”


Elstone, the former Everton chief executive who is in his third year at the Super League helm, used the system in the Premier League to support his argument.

“Material decisions that impact the Premier League are taken by its shareholders – and that’s the clubs,” he said.

“If the Premier League decided it wanted to change the size of its competition or how promotion and relegation happens, that would be a process taken by the shareholders.

“The business of Super League is owned by its clubs and there’s therefore a strong case to say that big decisions should be taken by the owners of the businesses.

“We’re looking to see whether there’s a solution moving forward, whether that’s a fully empowered executive team or on the other hand, every decision is taken by the clubs or something in the middle that gives protection and that’s a process we’re going through.”

Toronto, who withdrew from Super League in July, traced their difficulties back to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which would also have meant them playing the entire 2021 season in England.

Ottawa have put their planned entry into League 1 back to 2022 and Elstone admits continuing uncertainty over travel restrictions could count against Toulouse in their bid to become the second French club in Super League by filling the vacant 12th spot.

“It probably should, in the sense there’s a here and now about this and it’s relevant to the 2021 season,” he said.

“It’s finding the right balance between a medium and long-term decision because all 12 clubs run the risk of being relegated but we also need to be confident they can get to the start line on day one of the 2021 season.

“It should be a factor and it should be worth noting the way the Catalans Dragons have responded and the way they’ve rolled their sleeves up and fulfilled their fixtures within the limitations of Covid.”

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  1. You did the right thing not allowing Toronto back into super league , they went bust and walked out the competition, they never had a good plan to survive in super league and made a bad bad business deal to get into super league , ill planned and run by a bunch of idiots with little or no sense to run Toronto financially as a business / super league professional rugby club . It’s now had a knock on affect with Ottawa pulling out for another year , so if Toronto wanted to spread the game in North America then they totally fck the game up . Before anybody gives me a hard time I’ve helped develop this game from Lossiemouth ( north Scotland ) to Plymouth ( southern England ) both in the armed forces and the southern conference league and a original Scotland international so I know a little about the development of our sport and Toronto went about it completely the wrong way . Points deduction or relegation was Good enough punishment for me , to give Toronto the chance to survive in this sport. , but the man who wanted to take the club over tried blackmail with super league or bust statement , when he should of just came in silent and if he was really keen just cracked on with the job .

  2. So the owners of major sports do decide on financial issues for their respective leagues. What they don’t get to decide on is the viability of a member club or the viability of a proposed ownership change. This avoids clubs acting in their own self interest by leaking confidential details or signing players the day after a vote to exclude occurs. 7k+ fans, sponsorship from major Cdn retails based on being in SL brushed aside, commissioning of a highly flawed study that says the NA market is saturated. This from a a league that is competing for market share with 7 Premier League teams. Tell me why TWP fans shouldn’t think the fix was in. It is truly a shame that the bottom 5 teams are going to drive a great sport back to part time. So much for player welfare.

  3. The decision on what teams are eligible for Super League should be down to the group that runs the competition in consultation with the financial supporters. They are the ones who stand to gain or lose. Individual teams are only concerned with their own interests. The decision might have ended up the same but I think the wrong people made the decision.

  4. This was the right decision, you can’t just walk away from the competition and expect to walk back in without any problems, a points deduction or relegated and placed into special measures would of been sufficiently enough punishment. This was down to the owner and the clubs committee for making bum deals with the RFL and super league in the first place , they tried to develop the game in North America and spread the game plus with the Ottawa side having pulled out for another year , they have made the game a laughing stock . Before you all have ago at me , I have had the experience of being involved in the development of this game , in the Royal Air Force and the armed forces from RAF Lossiemouth ( Scotland ) and the Royal Navy ( Portsmouth and Plymouth england ) . Peterborough in the East Midlands league plus the southern conference and was a original Scotland squad member in 1995 . So the sport is run by idiots at the top who are totally clueless .they have tried a experiment in North America which up to now has FAILED big time . Through lack of knowledge or know how or in simple words destroyed the game . The man who wanted to take over Toronto failed with his blackmail efforts with super league or nothing quote if he was really that interested in out or our sport he would of had the pride to start at the bottom and work Toronto back to the top to prove people wrong in the high positions in the sport but he didn’t . So he’s just as much at fault for this mess

    • Alec.
      Sorry but your argument is flawed. I appreciate your viewpoint but Toronto did the right thing in the circumstances. Based on your argument, ALL the championship/league 1 clubs should be kicked out for not playing and also never play in the Challenge Cup for walking out on that.
      Parochialism killed Toronto and SL made the game a laughing stock, not Toronto. They did more in a short time to promote the game than many clubs, including SL clubs have done in their entire existence.

  5. The parochial interests of the clubs is the reason RL is largely irrelevant, despite many opportunities to evolve nationally and globally.

  6. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. .i have overt 50 years of history with watching and playing this great sport including representing. My country and eight years of running my own business. So the main problem for Toronto was the business deals they made with super. League . And the fact they ran out of money. . If Toronto have done a lot for the sport . Name some schools or collages that play the sport , or name some. Open age amateur sides in Toronto. , or name me some players or coaching staff from the academy side Toronto had ( didn’t ) so really they did nothing for the game , it’s. A point. Less subject to discuss as their not around anymore

  7. But Melbourne storm are not playing in our competition were as Toronto were , people said Toronto have done a lot for the game , I just gave some examples of what they could of done and didn’t do and must have given it a little thought to mention Melbourne which sort of backs up what I was saying . Such as the RAF , putting out station teams , command sides , RAF first squad a future player squad , a veterans squad and a ladies squad . Some what more developing the game than Toronto did

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