Toronto in Super League talks as travel ban set to rule out home games in Canada
Toronto Wolfpack are in urgent talks with Super League and the Rugby Football League after a travel ban was imposed that threatens to wreck their homecoming.
The newly-promoted Ontario club are playing the first two months of their first season in Super League in England due to a combination of the harsh Canadian winter and the unavailability of their Lamport Stadium until mid-April.
Toronto’s next two games, against Wakefield and Huddersfield, have fallen victim to the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the club will also lose their game against Catalans Dragons in Perpignan over Easter because it falls within the French Government’s time period for the ban on gatherings of over 1,000.
The club’s three games after that, against Hull, Wigan and St Helens, are all due to be played on consecutive Saturdays at the Lamport Stadium in Toronto but the Canadian Government have imposed an indefinite ban on non-US and Canada citizens flying into the country.
In addition, the Foreign Office are advising British nationals against all but essential travel to Canada.
Martin Vickers, the Wolfpack’s UK business manager, says the club are not considering switching further games to England but admits there is no simple solution.
“These are critical issues for us,” said Vickers. “It’s a complex situation.
“We’re urgently in dialogue with the governing body and Super League about proceeding with plans around these games.
“We have not contemplated playing games anywhere else but Canada.
“The home games are our sole source of income because, unlike other clubs, we do not receive central distribution and it would be a huge factor if we were to lose the competitive advantage of playing at home.”
Toronto stood down their entire playing staff at the weekend after four players complained of mild symptoms of the virus and agreed to self-isolation and were happy with the decision to call a halt to fixtures.
“We felt they should have announced a longer break,” Vickers added.
The club have decided to put the break to their advantage by getting expensive recruit Sonny Bill Williams into hospital for minor knee surgery.
With a three-week recovery period, the former All Black is unlikely to miss any matches and the club are set to follow suit with former St Helens captain Jon Wilkin, who deferred knee surgery in order to help his side through a difficult period.
The Wolfpack have lost their first six league matches but got through to the last 16 of the Challenge Cup thanks to an 18-0 win over Huddersfield in last Wednesday’s fifth-round tie.
They were drawn away to League One club Newcastle Thunder in the sixth round, which is due to take place on the weekend of April 4-5.