The financially troubled Toronto Wolfpack have identified a possible buyer whom they hope will help revive the transatlantic rugby league team and keep it in England’s Super League next season.
The potential new owner is North American and already holds a stake in the team, according to Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter.
“So they understand the game and understand what’s going on,” he added.
The plan is to keep the franchise in Toronto.
The team, which announced July 20 that it could not afford to play out the remainder of the season due to the financial challenges posed by the global pandemic, had been looking at three interested parties.
“We’re getting down to the short strokes,” said Hunter. “I think we have come to a point of one ownership group that we are ready to recommend above the others.
“We’ve got to get something to Super League either late this week or early next week – and to the RFL (Rugby Football League) at the same time – which would allow them to vet the owner. They have to approve a change in ownership, which is totally understandable.”
The path to new ownership was set when majority owner David Argyle announced he was stepping away from the club so it could find a new lease on life. Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian who works in mining and natural resources in emerging markets, says he is no longer able to fund the club.
He says the existing ownership group has poured $30 million into the team since it first took to the field in 2017. The club has never identified its ownership group, which numbered 11 or 12 members back in 2018.
The club is putting the finishing touches on a new three-year business plan, which will be submitted to league officials once the potential new owner approves it.
Hunter hopes the ownership void can be settled in two to three weeks.
The Super League has resumed play with 11 teams – 10 from England and France’s Catalan Dragons. Reports in England suggest the owners want to keep the league at 12 teams, which is good news for Toronto.
“Only because I think we offer the easiest solution to them,” Hunter explained. “Then they do not have to go through the vetting of who is the best choice.
“We proved ourselves by getting there (winning promotion to Super League). And now it’s really a matter of hopefully staying there. That’s certainly our priority and the potential owner’s priority – staying in Super League.”
The new owner would make good on the franchise’s missed payrolls. Argyle had personally guaranteed the pay owed but is not in a position to make good on that promise.
Players have not been paid since June 10 with other Super League clubs stepping up to deliver them food hampers.
“It’s been a very embarrassing time for us,” said Hunter. “I hate to suggest this but we kind of deserve what we get in social media and mainstream media.
“It’s embarrassing that the club is in the situation it’s in. But we’re trying to do the best we can.”
In other Wolfpack news, centre Greg Worthington has signed a two-year deal with Halifax RLFC ahead of the 2021 campaign in the second-tier Championship. Worthington started the season on loan with Featherstone Rovers before being recalled.