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Super League clubs vote against allowing Toronto back into the league

Super League clubs have voted against allowing Toronto Wolfpack back into the competition for 2021, by eight votes to four with one abstention.

Toronto resigned from the 2020 competition in July after former owner David Argyle withdrew, stating he could no longer fund the club.

New owner Carlo LiVolsi offered to underwrite the club's losses but his plans were rejected.

The meeting to discuss the 2021 structure will be held on Tuesday.

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone admitted the decision would "divide the game's fans" but that the evidence presented meant allowing the club to return "would not be right for the development of the competition".

He referred to the results of a report which stated that running a team in the north American market would be "non-strategic" and "added no material incremental revenue to Super League in the short or medium term".

Elstone continued: "Our review of the club's recent submission identified a number of areas of concern, particularly regarding the aggressive revenue targets on which the financial forecasts are based.

"Separately, it was also apparent that no assessment of the scale and acces­sibility of the commercial growth that might accrue to the sport from entering the Canadian market was ever completed prior to the club's first entry into the sport."

The 2020 season resumed in August after a four-and-a-half-month coronavirus hiatus with Toronto's results expunged. It has been run as an 11-team competition with bye-weeks to make up for the lop-sided number of teams.

Prior to Monday's vote, the Super League Europe executive considered a report into the business plan submitted by LiVolsi, which urged the clubs to turn down the proposal.

"Toronto Wolfpack and the investment group had previously submitted an extensive five-year business plan, including significant input from independent financial advisors," a club statement said.

"The submission addressed original feedback received from the Super League and member clubs, including improved clarity on what benefits the Wolfpack bring to the League as a whole, as well as detailed plans for the growth of rugby league in Canada.

"The club shares the obvious disap­po­in­tment of our players, staff, sponsor and partners, as well as incredible fans, at today's decision. The Wolfpack will now take some time to consider our position and consult further with the current ownership group, led by David Argyle."

The decision ends the Super League dream of the Wolfpack, who climbed from League One into the top tier within just three seasons of starting up.

Their arrival in the elite brought great fanfare, never more so than when they brought former All Black cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams back to league as part of their building for the new campaign.

However, such big-name, big-money signings left the club short on the salary cap, particularly as they could not draw on central funding through television revenue nor stage home matches because of the harsh early season Toronto climate, and they had failed to win a league game before their withdrawal during the initial coronavirus lockdown.

Now there is also uncertainty as to whether the players, who had not been paid and were told their salaries would be guaranteed if the club was readmitted after agreement between the owners and the players' union, will receive the money owed to them.

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