THE RFL is delighted to confirm that Toronto Wolfpack will join the UK’s third tier competition, Kingstone Press League 1, in 2017.
In an exciting first for British sport, Rugby League will have a trans-Atlantic flavour with the entry of the newly-formed Canadian club, who have ambitious plans to develop their brand and the sport across North America.
Toronto have also been invited to participate in the historic Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in 2017, which celebrates its 120th anniversary next season, and can expect a warm welcome from the other clubs in a domestic competition which has the world’s biggest geographical footprint.
“It is with great pleasure that I can confirm Toronto Wolfpack’s entry into Kingstone Press League 1 next season,” said RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
“We have worked closely with the Canadian club’s officials and investors in the last few years and have no doubts that Toronto Wolfpack will enhance a competition which has already established a reputation for welcoming new clubs.
“Rugby League has always had a pioneering philosophy throughout its history and this initiative offers further evidence of the sport’s wide appeal and readiness to embrace innovation.
“We are looking forward to working with Toronto Wolfpack, who will join us with the unanimous support of our member clubs.”
Toronto Wolfpack will play home and away fixtures in four or five-match ‘blocks’, staying in residential accommodation while in the UK and flying out other teams at their expense for home matches at Lamport Stadium in the Liberty Village area of downtown Toronto.
Visiting teams to Lamport Stadium, which is known as ‘The Den’, will fly out on a Thursday, play on Saturday and return to Europe on Sunday.
Toronto have already recruited a backroom and administrative team with a rich Rugby League pedigree which includes Brian Noble, Paul Rowley and Adam Fogerty, the former St Helens and Halifax player who has been appointed as Director.
Noble, the former Bradford Bulls and Great Britain coach, has joined the club as Director of Rugby with ex-Leigh Centurions coach Rowley as head coach.
The Wolfpack will commence an ambitious player recruitment campaign over the summer months when their drive to sign talent from sports clubs across North America will be the subject of a reality television series called Last Tackle.
The club was launched today at a gala presentation in Toronto attended by the city’s mayor John Tory, who heard Wolfpack Chief Executive Eric Perez spell out his ambitions for Rugby League in Canada.
Mr Perez, who has been a leading figure behind the success of the Canadian national team, said: “Sports fans have long waited for a trans-Atlantic major league team and we’re proud to be the first with the launch of our club, the Toronto Wolfpack,” said Mr Perez.
“With 220m global participants across all codes of rugby playing the sport, the RFL’s decision to expand its competition across the pond becomes obvious and it makes me very proud as a born and raised Torontonian that the RFL has selected our city as the beach head in North America.”
Kingstone Press League 1 is already Europe’s most geographically diverse competition featuring clubs from Newcastle Thunder in the North East of England to Toulouse Olympique in France. In the last five years League 1 has welcomed a host of other new semi-professional clubs, including Oxford, Hemel Stags, Coventry Bears and the University of Gloucestershire All Golds.
At the end of every season, two clubs are promoted from League 1 to the Kingstone Press Championship, from which four clubs get the opportunity to challenge for a place in the First Utility Super League by competing in the Super 8s.
The entry of Toronto Wolfpack has been welcomed by League 1 sponsors Kingstone Press, whose Marketing Controller Justin Way said: “The entry of the Toronto Wolfpack adds an exciting new dimension to the Kingstone Press league 1 competition and demonstrates how open the Rugby League family are to innovation and taking the sport to new audiences. We look forward to the Wolfpack being able to sample some Kingstone Press cider refreshment on their travels to the UK and we’ll endeavour to make it available for their fans to enjoy in ‘The Den’.”