Ottawa Rugby League could start in 2020 competition, New York encouraged to target 2021

The city of Ottawa
The Canadian city of Ottawa could find itself home to a rugby league club from 2020 onwards

Ottawa have had their application to take on Hemel Stags' licence in League One accepted in principle, and could be included in the 2020 competition.

The Rugby Football League has advised that further work is required to ensure the club is ready to begin next season in the Canadian city.

Toronto Wolfpack are already representing Canada in the league.

New York have been advised to target a 2021 League One start, in order to put the necessary infrastructure in place.

Both applications were supported by a majority of RFL member clubs at April's meeting.

Eric Perez, who founded the initial setup of Toronto and remains a director despite taking a back seat, is part of the Ottawa group.

"The application for Hemel Stags to be relocated to Ottawa has been accepted in principle - although both the RFL and the consortia have agreed that some further work is required before it can be confirmed that the Stags will be ready to start the 2020 season in Ottawa," the RFL statement said.

"With regard to the New York bid, the RFL and the consortium have agreed that entry into League One in time for 2020 is not achievable without placing the club under undue pressure, because it is a start-up operation without the benefit of existing operations already being in place, and due to some change in the ownership structure during the process.

"The RFL has therefore encouraged the club to work towards entry into League One in 2021."

Strength in numbers

Toronto celebrate a try
Toronto have enjoyed success since their formation just two and a bit seasons ago

Toronto's success as a start-up operation has helped create confidence in the potential of other rugby league franchises such as New York and Ottawa within the existing clubs.

The Wolfpack won promotion to the Championship in their inaugural season, and came within 80 minutes of a Super League place but lost to London Broncos in the 2018 Million Pound Game.

Owner David Argyle believes the addition of new clubs from the region can only help the growth of the sport in its new territories.

"It certainly helps what we're doing," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's rugby league podcast.

"For us, we're supportive of what they're trying to do, once again to grow the game of rugby league."


Matt Newsum, BBC rugby league reporter

Rugby league's horizons are on course to broaden again with the decision to approve moving Hemel Stags to Ottawa "in principle" in time for 2020.

Toronto have proven that with the right marketing and smart fan offerings, it is possible to draw a fan base to a new market with a new sport.

Ottawa has arguably a less-crowded sporting landscape, and will have a similar curiosity level, while the influence of Perez - a founder of the Toronto club - will prove invaluable.

However, one factor that is expected to differ is that Ottawa are keen to grow as a club in a more organic fashion. That means more emphasis in developing players from the local area as opposed to the creation of a team from imports.

It might mean a slower build, not quite so explosive in terms of initial success, but arguably a more sustainable model of developing the sport.

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