Robert Elstone: Toronto decision difficult, but right one

Robert Elstone believes Super League made the right decision in turning down Toronto Wolfpack’s bid to be re-admitted into the competition.

The Canadian club withdrew from their maiden season in the top flight in July, citing financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but had hoped they would return to Super League in 2021 under new ownership.

But a meeting of the Super League board rejected their bid by a vote of 8-4 with one abstention.

Super League’s executive chairman Elstone has admitted it was a tough decision to turn down Toronto’s bid, but believes it was the right call.

Elstone told Sky Sports: “It was a really difficult decision and one that we took very seriously – one that we conducted throughly, professionally, diligently – one in which that we gave Toronto every chance to demonstrate that it could contribute to Super League.

“I think Toronto was always starting off on the back foot. If you go back to when Toronto joined the competition, I’m not sure any sort of commercial appraisal was done over the prospects but equally, Toronto was admitted on a business model which was essentially self-funded by the club in perpetuity some people would argue.

“I think the problem started at that point where it came into the competition on a non-sustainable business model. I think clearly Covid then had a major influence. I think there were some decisions along the way that people might argue with but Covid exacerbated problems, highlighted weaknesses.


“We then sat down with the club immediately after it had given notice of its intention to stand down. We tried to help, we gave a three-month window for the club to prepare a bid, we evaluated the risks and returns of playing rugby league in Canada, playing transatlantic rugby league and the challenges, for me, clearly outweighed some of the opportunities.

“The opportunities were largely undefined, they certainly hadn’t crystalised a date, we had some independent corroboration of that, none of that stacked up and when the club finally made submission, the club made a second submission, the first submission by its own admission wasn’t up to scratch, there was no real new evidence.

“So, I think the balance of all that – yes, it was a difficult decision but we are very certain as an executive team and as a Super League board that we made the right decision.”

Super League hopefuls have been shown the minimum criteria needed to fill the vacant 12th spot for next year.

READ: Super League hopefuls discover requirements to fill vacant 12th spot

As many as eight clubs are thought to be interested in taking Toronto’s place in the top flight for 2021. A decision is expected to be made on Super League’s newest club by December 16.

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  1. So 3 years of 1 club playing the game in Canada, paying it’s and other clubs costs was not good enough without taking a penny from the RFL/SL?
    The question then has to be asked DID SL AT ANY STAGE get involved with trying to develop Toronto or, as I suspect, they ignored them completely until they had to deal with them.
    Thats the trouble with the game, and SL in particular, it’s too parochial in it’s thinking. It’s all short termism.
    If Toronto is seen as a dead duck WHY ON EARTH is the game playing a World Cup? There are only 3 possibly 4 teams capable of winning it and the disinterest in developing the international game is nothing short of shocking for a game that claims to be “the greatest game on earth”.
    Well the decision has been made, My subscription to watch NRL will continue and my Sky Sports subscription will be removed. Maybe only a token gesture but one I’m comfortable with. As for the championship/League 1, who cares? SL really don’t and interest is waining.Nothing obvious as to the reasons why, yet ” new” sports and getting more interest and media coverage than RL. Perhaps it’s because they are thinking GLOBAL not local.
    Ah well.

    • Terminal decline. Too much power to the likes of Wakefield, who offer a third of the crowds that Toronto generated, in fact nobody would cross the road to watch, or even switch their TV on watch them. After all the years in SUPER league they and others like them are stuck in the 1950’s

  2. It is remarkable that this man is making £400k a year from a sport that can ill afford to waste any money. His contribution so far has been to mess up the Catalan French TV deal and help block RL’s expansion into North America, the biggest sports market in the world. It would be funny if it wasn’t so damaging and potentially fatal to the sport.

  3. Terminal decline. Too much power to the likes of Wakefield, who offer a third of the crowds that Toronto generated, in fact nobody would cross the road to watch, or even switch their TV on watch them. After all the years in SUPER league they and others like them are stuck in the 1950’s

  4. LeagueFan, Tony Shaw, and Graz with respect, get over yourselves.

    You are speaking as though you were in the SL meetings and know all the facts. What makes you think this decision wasn’t in the best interests of our game? Could the Wolfpack last long term? The answer from most experts is a resounding no.

    This is not the end of SL in Canada. Ottawa is apparently running very differently to the Wolfpack and might be able to make something big happen which will add to our game.

    Relax and stop bashing the game we love so much.

    • Ottawa is a much smaller city about two hours down from Toronto, and linked quite tightly with it. If you thought that the shabby treatment of Toronto will not have serious consequences on Ottawa’s continuing interest (if any) in investing emotionally in a rugby league team tied with this lot — think again.

    • The point is that no matter how good Ottawa (and New York) are, Wakey, Cas, Hudderfield, Salford and Wigan will vote to keep them out of Super League (as they have just demonstrated).
      We should be doing everything we can to encourage investment in the sport not behaving like this. The treatment of Toronto has been shabby at best. The small minded clubs have put themselves before the sport and seized upon the economic problems caused by covid to take their chance to eject Toronto.

    • Wakefield v Castleford or Featherstone is NOT the future of the game.
      The sporting world has moved on. SL hasn’t and is still corner shop parochialism.
      If you believe differently then that’s fine. Accepting 2000 as an average attendance for a “new” SL club shows the dizzy heights of expectation SL has. It would also be interesting to apply the new “rules” to existing clubs in SL. I would suggest that some would struggle.
      The decline in interest, especially globally will continue however.
      Let’s face it , SL relies on TV revenue and my understanding is broadcasters are not queuing up to buy what’s on offer.

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