New York set to follow Toronto onto rugby league bandwagon

Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow lift the Super League Champions Trophy.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow lift the Super League Champions Trophy.' PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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Ambitious plans have been unveiled for a New York rugby league team to follow Toronto into the English game.

A business plan has been submitted to the Rugby Football League and organisers, who say they have the backing of wealthy benefactors, hope to get the go-ahead in time to enter the competition in 2019.

The project has been inspired by the success of Toronto, who achieved promotion from Kingstone Press League 1 at the first attempt and drew crowds of 7,000, but the founders of the New York club hope to get the go-ahead to enter at Championship level, just one step away from Super League.

Co-founder Tom Scott told a media briefing in Leeds that, like Toronto, the New York club would not seek any central funding and have already secured 10million US dollars in investment.

“We have a small consortium of high-networking individuals, one member of which has made New York his home, and all have a significant love for the game,” Scott said. “We will be self-sufficient.”

Like Toronto, New York would cover all travel and accommodation costs of visiting teams after securing agreements with a travel company and hotel chain and play in blocks of home and away fixtures.

Organisers say playing in the summer would avoid a direct clash with the NFL and they are confident of building a fan base of 10,000 in the first year, doubling the figure within three years to bring it on a par with the New York Red Bulls soccer team.

The team would be based at a training complex in Warwick, an hour’s drive from New York City, and play at the 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, a 20-minute train ride from the World Trade Centre.

The other co-founder Ricky Wilby, who has made three fact-finding trips to New York in the last six months, told the briefing the consortium have plans to lay firm foundations for rugby league in the city.

“We want to grow the sport in North America and increase the pool of players which would ultimately increase the chances of success for the USA national team,” he said.

Wilby says the consortium hope to get the go-ahead to stage a Super League fixture at the Red Bull Arena in 2017 and have offered to host an RFL delegation in February.

Organisers are confident of attracting a television deal and have pledged to spread the game into schools and the local community.

The development comes in the wake of a pledge from Toronto founder Eric Perez to launch a second Canadian club in the next six months and a prediction that there could be up to six North American teams within five years.

The United States will host the 2025 World Cup and the Hawks’ 2017 World Cup captain Mark Offerdahl, who played in New York’s tri-state area for the Connecticut Wildcats, is confident the project can be successful.

“There’s lots of potential,” said Offerdahl, who played in the Championship for London Broncos this year. “Rugby union has gone crazy in the last 10 years but they also love rugby league.

“At the time of the last World Cup, the game was fractured in the US but now everyone is working together and new teams are forming every year. There are 13 or 14 now with a lot of ex-college players who pick up the game very easily.”