Sonny Bill Williams allowed to cover up Super League sponsor’s logo
Sonny Bill Williams will be allowed to cover up the Super League sponsors’ logo due to his opposition to betting.
The 34-year-old former All Black, who converted to Islam in 2009 and has often spoken about his devotion to his faith, is rugby league’s biggest recruit for 2020, having signed a two-year deal with promoted Toronto Wolfpack.
League chief executive Robert Elstone says a compromise has been agreed with Betfred, who have sponsored the competition since 2017 and last season signed a new, record contract taking them to the end of 2021.
Speaking at the season launch at Headingley, Elstone said: “I think the matter has been resolved in satisfactory fashion. I have say a big thank-you to Betfred for the way they’ve managed this.
“We suspected it might be an issue but it only really surfaced five or six days ago and Betfred have taken it on, considered it and come up with the right answer and one that works for all parties.
“I’m really pleased, they showed a progressive, pragmatic approach to this.
“Clearly I’m protecting Super League’s profit and loss and we have a huge line in there for a record-breaking deal with Betfred.
“My first instinct and duty was to protect that and I’m pleased that Betfred came with us on that.”
Meanwhile, Elstone has told the dual-code international to do his talking on the pitch.
“I’ve said a lot about Toronto, how they’ve brought talk-ability to the competition and piqued the interest of fans and media,” he said.
“We were tasked with how to get the best out of them and Sonny is an example of how we’re doing that. He is an amazing individual who has seen the eyes of the world turn onto Super League.
“I have a South African friend, a Muslim, who sent me a text about Sonny and said he’s got 100 of his friends talking about Super League that have never heard of it before.
“It’s a good example of what his signing can do. The first time I met him today, I said to him ‘I want you to do your talking on the pitch’ – and I hope he will. I’m sure he will.”
Elstone also spoke about Toronto’s request for salary cap relief for their first season in the top flight, admitting it is “crazy” that the situation has still to be resolved less than a week before the big kick-off.
“They’re having those discussions primarily with the Rugby Football League who essentially operate the cap on Super League’s behalf,” the former Everton chief executive said.
“I am aware of discussions and some proposals which really now have to be ratified and shared with the clubs We’ll see where that gets to.
“I think what we have to do is find the right solution for the club but equally respect the cap that’s in place.
“Relegation is a factor and there’s a few clubs worried about where they will finish that are looking closely at this issue.
“It’s not an easy one. I have sympathy both ways but the whole thing will be resolved within a short space of time.
“It’s crazy that it’s being done at the end of January really. Clubs have built squads, set budgets and a week out from the start of the season we’re looking at something that might impact Toronto and the rest of the league.
“The game should have addressed it sooner. The one thing any league needs is certainty and consistency and to do this at a late date is not ideal.”
Elstone says he is listening to a request from Toronto to re-negotiate a deal with Super League that sees them take no central funding, with the Wolfpack’s £2million share being distributed instead between the league and the other 11 clubs.
“What I’m committed to do through good faith and professional discussions is give Toronto certainty about what the future looks like,” he said.