The Toronto Wolfpack continued their lobbying campaign to return to Super League with a pledge Friday to meet all outstanding payroll commitments if accepted back into England’s top flight under new ownership.
The payroll promise, which had already been made verbally by potential new owner Carlo LiVolsi, came in the form of an agreement with the GMB, the union for rugby league players and staff.
“Our main concern is for the players and their families, and this agreement makes good the position financially with all players moving forward,” GMB senior organizer Peter Davies said in a joint statement released by the Wolfpack.
“Discussions with the club and the new ownership group have been positive and we are grateful that the repayment of the 2020 wage bill is a major priority for the incoming group if their reapplication into Super League is successful.”
The Wolfpack stood down July 20 with the club saying majority owner David Argyle could no longer fund the transatlantic franchise. Super League has continued play with its 11 remaining clubs, expunging the Wolfpack from the season standings.
Toronto has applied to return to Super League in 2021 under LiVolsi, a Toronto businessman who has linked his ownership bid to the team being returned to the top tier. A decision by rugby league authorities is expected later this month or in early October.
Wolfpack players, meanwhile, have not been paid since June 10.
“The deal will see all player payroll commitments for 2020 will be met in full by the incoming ownership group,” the Wolfpack said in the release. “These liabilities, which are in excess of one million pounds ($1.71 million), will ensure that all players suffer no loss in salary.”
A Wolfpack spokesman said the missed payroll currently totals 500,000 pounds ($853,220). The one-million-pound figure represents the amount that will be owed players and staff come the end of the year.
Argyle gave his personal guarantee to make good on the debt. But the Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur, whose ownership group put some $30 million into the franchise, has not been able to do so.
Friday’s announcement reiterates LiVolsi’s promise to pay the payroll debt, this time with the backing of the union.
“We understand the game needs to be assured on the financial status of the new ownership group, but I feel the best test of due diligence on the new ownership of the Wolfpack is this agreement to repay the players for their 2020 payroll commitments, a liability which is not even the new owner’s legal responsibility,” said Garreth Carvell, a former Great Britain international who is the GMB’s lead player representative.
“We strongly urge the Super League clubs to make the right decision for the players and the game and reinstate the Wolfpack to Super League.”
The Wolfpack have asked fans to post messages of support for the franchise on social media, with players following suit. Some players have left the club for good, while others have signed short-terms loan with other teams for the duration of the 2020 season.
The Wolfpack began life in the third-tier League 1 in 2017, winning promotion to the second-tier Championship and then the elite Super League.