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New York rugby league team to enter English pyramid in 2022

The Rugby Football League (RFL), the governing body for professional rugby league in England, has given the go-ahead for the proposed New York team to enter its third tier League 1 competition in 2022. 

The move sees the RFL take a further step towards North American expansion after it was confirmed on 9th March that Canadian rugby league side Ottawa Aces will join League 1 in 2021, after taking on Hemel Stags’ licence.

RFL clubs had initially voted in favour of the New York and Ottawa teams last April, which could have seen them enter the league structure as early as 2020.

Now New York have taken a step closer to joining Ottawa and Toronto Wolfpack, the first transat­lantic team to join back in 2017 and now plays in the top-tier Super League competition, in the RFL set-up.­  
If New York can achieve a similar trajectory to Toronto, they could be playing in the Super League as early as 2024.

Ricky Wilby, bid lead for the New York team, is already pushing ahead with plans and hopes to host three clubs from the National Rugby League (NRL), Australia’s elite rugby league competition, as part of pre-season trials next February, as well as two national teams.

In addition, New York are aiming to enter the 2021 Challenge Cup, the RFL’s domestic knockout cup, with Wilby adding that a coach had already been lined up to prepare the team for up to 30 friendlies ahead of their scheduled debut in 2021.

The fledgling team are also reportedly in initial discussions to make Red Bull Arena, home to Major League Soccer’s (MLS) New York Red Bulls, their new venue. Negotiations with ESPN and other streaming services over broadcast deals are also apparently ongoing.

In addition, for a city where rugby league lags behind numerous sports including football, basketball, baseball and soccer, New York will look to British and Australian fans living in the area to fill the stadium.

“The New York sporting market is crying out for a successful sporting team,” Wilby told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The Yankees have had a bit of a slump, the Giants and Jets have had tough times, it’s devastating for fans to see where the Knicks are. If we can offer some sort of success, there is definitely a gap in the market for us.

“The one thing we have done slightly different to Toronto [Wolfpack] is we’ve always said we’d be based in the US rather than the north of England. Initially there is a massive expat market, and we have a massive community program that we will roll out.

"It will be in their contracts that when players finish training they will go into schools, community and mentoring groups. Our community programme will be the basis for our longevity.”

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