North America Rugby League

Teams in the North American Rugby League (NARL) East Conference say they have no intention of returning to the USA Rugby League (USARL) LLC domestic competition even if their new league doesn’t happen in 2021.

“The clubs that left the USARL for the NARL would rather not compete than consider a return to the USARL,” New York Freedom principal CJ Cortalano told Rugby League Planet.

This pledge comes amid questions about the NARL’s financial position.

On March 31, the NARL announced that it would be introducing a 14-team competition in the US and Canada. It said that each of the 14 teams would be paid $300,000 between April 2021 and January 2022. That came to a grand total of $4.2 million in funding for the entire league.

It is understood that most, if not all, teams received a first installment of about $25,000.

Earlier this month, the NARL announced that the West Conference would not, in fact, get off the ground in 2021 as planned due to a combination of factors.

So, considering the six teams in the West Conference don’t yet exist, their remaining funding can be discounted from the original total. That means the NARL would still have to shell out $2.4 million for the remaining eight clubs, including the two Canadian Conference teams in Ottawa and Toronto.

It has been reported that East Conference teams have been told their next payments will not be made on the due date on which they were scheduled.

“Things with the NARL are not perfect and we all knew that would be the case with joining them,” Cortalano continued. “On top of normal startup issues, COVID still remains a bigger issue with getting things moving.

“It is still possible that games are played. Regardless, the quality of play will be superior to the USARL. It’s far from perfect, but it’s the best opportunity we have been presented in a long time and I’ve been at this for close to 20 years.”

Founder of USARL club Delaware Black Foxes Bjorn Haglid has a different take on the latest developments. He says USARL teams have heard reports that the NARL has encountered some financial issues, although just what those issues are is unclear.

“We heard that investors have decided to pull out of the NARL,” he told RLP. “This was told to a player that had a signed contract. He moved up to a New York club and was told by the COO that they had to cancel his contract.

“It was a player that was going to play for us before he was offered and signed a contract.”

Haglid said if they wanted to, the NARL teams could join up with USARL and get insurance coverage which would cut some of their costs.

However, according to the NARL, its inaugural season is still on track.

The league posted on social media on Tuesday (May 25) that, “Our inaugural season kick off is fast approaching as are major NARL partner announcements – coming soon!”

According to its website, the NARL’s inaugural season is still scheduled to start on Saturday, June 19, in Brooklyn, New York.

Brian Lowe
Brian is a strong and effective communicator with more than 30 years’ experience in broadcast and electronic media. He has been writing for Rugby League Planet since 2012 and is frequently the first reporter to break news stories about the sport. He has been our North American correspondent reporting on news in the US, Canada and Jamaica covering everything from league standings to strategy analysis to breaking news on key trades to editorials and colourful features on athletes. He is now writing about rugby league on a broader scale to cover developments around the globe. An accomplished storyteller, Brian started his career in Australian radio, before moving to the United States. He is an experienced podcast host and producer and is also a successful TV commentator having done play-by-play and analysis for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) among others.