Robert Elstone hints at Toronto sanctions, says withdrawal was a big surprise

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone says the withdrawal of Toronto Wolfpack was a big surprise and that they could face sanction after they pulled out of the 2020 season.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Elstone said: “It was a big surprise to us.

“We were aware of rumours in the game that weren’t fully aligned with what we were hearing from the club. The club’s attempts to get to the start line in 2020 and were very genuine, and only as late as last Thursday, we got verbal assurances that they were going to be ready.

“In that sense, it was a surprise, but there were mixed messages out there and so we were very much alerted.

“So late in the season it’s not helpful to us, right now we’re picking up the pieces and dealing with the consequences.”

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There has been criticism of Super League clubs reportedly refusing to loan Toronto an amount, believed to be around £200k, to allow them to continue – and Wolfpack captain Josh McCrone blasted the lack of support shown to the expansion club.

They were not allocated any central funding or TV money at the start of the year, and it was instead shared between the other clubs, and they must cover the costs of all clubs travelling to Canada.

Elstone added: “They joined the competition on a pre-existing financial arrangement which they were very much aware of, that dates back to when they were first admitted to the RFL’s competition.

“They were aware of the financial challenges. Clearly the COVID crisis has exacerbated that. They had to play every game away from home, they had challenges around players, severe logistical and operational challenges around the club.

“It became very difficult for them, and they very genuinely tried to get to the start line. It’s unfortunate that the decision has been made so close to the start of the season, but we move forward.

“Our short term priorities are re-aligning the 2020 season. In the medium term we have to look at potential sanctions for Toronto’s actions, having essentially stepped down from the competition in 2020.

“There will be some considered dialogue with the Wolfpack, Super League and other clubs about the club’s (Toronto) long-term plans and status within the Super League competition.”

Meanwhile, Elstone effectively ruled out the possibility of bringing in another club to replace Wolfpack on a short-term basis, after Championship club Featherstone Rovers made their case in the wake of Toronto’s withdrawal.

He said: “I think bringing a team in midway through the competition is difficult.

“There are all sorts of questions about what basis you do it on and what impact it has on the league, so I think my initial reaction is that it would be difficult to see us doing anything other than playing with 11 teams for the remainder of the season.”


  1. It is no surprise to me as a rugby league supporter for 50 years the Toronto project could never work for a prolonged period but mr elstone seems shocked he’s yet another example of rugby league making bad choices to run this wonderful sport sack him now he brings nothing to the table except bluster and by the way you can use my e mail address to send to him I’m concerned about this great sport run by imbeciles like him.

  2. SL is killing the game in the Northern Hemisphere.
    RL was built on inclusiveness.
    SL are greedy and elitist and don’t give a jot about the game as a whole but my club, my club only.
    The wasted money that has been spent on overseas never were, never would be, past it players shows just how out of contributors the game is.
    Time for a, totally independent of the clubs, organisation to run the game.

  3. I support the Toronto project, but they have serious problems, and they have let down Super League and not kept to their assurances, it is time to be fair and firm with them, if they wish to continue in 2021 then they really have a lot to do, so it is right to relegate them. This possible Competition with the £250,000 prize, should instead become a play off for Championship Clubs with sufficient points to play off to see who is Promoted to Super League in 2021. Anything else will show Super League to be weak

  4. I think this should be sorted out by Featherstone playing London in a one of game , featherstone because they played and lost in the final with Toronto and London because they played well in the super league but got relegated . Winner takes Toronto’s place in super league . Forget about Toronto they have had their chance and blew it

  5. The Superleague concept is utter rubbish, by name it infers that games played at any other level just do not matter. The game was better supported when the clubs concisted of local players with pride in their town and club and run by those with the same feelings, as we at Widnes are well aware.
    Intercontinental Rugby League is a farce, we are and always will be a parochial, trible sport with local rivals who deep down, do like each other (even Wire!). Sorry but no love lost if this stupid “experiment” is over, though I would welcome a North American league.

  6. Mr Elstone says TWP were genuine. I think the opposite. Only when relegation was off did they withdraw with no time to react. I don’t want them in the championship next year. The game has been had over.

  7. I think London should take Toronto place in super League tronto should be docked points if they go into the championship

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