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Sonny Bill Williams with the former Toronto Wolfpack is wrapped up by Salford Red Devils players during Betfred Super League rugby action in Manchester, U.K. on Feb. 8, 2020. Former members of the Toronto team are suing for outstanding salary payments.Stephen Gaunt/The Canadian Press

More than four years since it played its final game in Britain’s Super League, the Toronto Wolfpack is making headlines. The Canadian rugby league team, heralded as the world’s first transatlantic sports outfit before it folded as a professional entity, is set to be the subject of legal proceedings, with the club’s former players reportedly claiming more than £1.2-million ($2.08-million) in outstanding salary payments.

After just six games in the top tier of British rugby league, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the 2020 season to a halt. When Super League started back later in the year, the Wolfpack and owner David Argyle stood down, saying they lacked the financial resources to resume play. The result was that the team’s squad, which included global rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, missed out on six months’ worth of salary, a sum they have been trying to recover since.

Now, according to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, the Rugby League Players Association, which represents rugby league players in Britain, has written to Argyle, with support from the Rugby Football League, to confirm it will be taking legal action over the unpaid wages. A phone call to Argyle, who is said to still live in Ontario, was not returned.

The report adds that Argyle has made “goodwill” payments of £1,150 ($1,994) to players, while promising to pay the players in full.

“We just did not have the financial resources to carry the team and the program and unfortunately, the player salaries, through COVID,” said Bob Hunter, the team’s former chairman and chief executive officer.

“I know David has on I think two occasions made sort of I will say nominal but notable donations to the players and if those resources come back, he is certainly hoping – I will say hoping – that some retribution can come forward. He’s never denied that he still owed the players money, but more so that the resources just weren’t there. The team basically had to go out of business.”

The Wolfpack tried to apply for readmission to Super League for the 2021 season, but its bid was denied, and the club ultimately ceased operations in its professional guise in November, 2020.

“We were very serious,” Hunter said of the club’s attempt to get reinstated. “And we had some potential financing – potential – and then we were turned down by Super League, so that kind of ended any potential of ever getting back to paying the players.”

Williams, a cross-code rugby superstar, was reportedly making £2.6-million ($4.5-million) a year for the Wolfpack, but the majority of his teammates made nowhere near that, with one player claiming a teammate was getting by in the absence of his playing salary in 2020 by “delivering dog food for a living.”

Asked about the validity of the players’ claims, even four years after the fact, Hunter concurred.

“Can’t argue the point,” he said. “And again, all I can say is that David was a very, very passionate owner. He basically funded the team for three years out of his own resources. And we never made money.”

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