New York and Ottawa present bids to join League 1 in 2020

The final decision on each of the bids will be made by the Board of the Rugby Football League
The final decision on each of the bids will be made by the Board of the Rugby Football League
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A special meeting of Championship and League One clubs in Salford yesterday (Thursday) agreed for the Rugby Football League to continue investigating the feasibility of two separate bids for clubs in North America.


The clubs heard presentations from one consortium aiming to relocate Hemel Stags to Ottawa in Canada, and a separate consortium to launch a new club in New York.

The final decision on each of the bids will be made by the Board of the Rugby Football League.

The RFL convened the meeting to assess the mood of the clubs, as had been done before Toronto Wolfpack were admitted to join League One in 2017. Super League clubs were also invited to attend, although not to participate in the indicative vote that was held at the end of the meeting.

Simon Johnson, the RFL’s senior non-executive director who chairs the Championship and League One forum, said: “The clubs were in principle supportive, by a comfortable majority, of the proposals for both Ottawa and New York to join the competitions, and for the RFL Board to continue to exercise its discretion to negotiate with both clubs, and to make a decision in due course.”

A two-man New York delegation comprising founder Ricky Wilby and New Zealander Tony Feasey made an hour-long presentation and they were followed by Toronto founder Eric Perez, who outlined his ambitious plan to re-locate current League 1 club Hemel to Ottawa, accompanied by former Hemel coach Dean Thomas and a representative of one of 15 owners.

Both consortia say they need an answer by the end of April if they are to enter League 1 in time for the 2020 season.

Wilby, who says his group are supportive of the Ottawa bid, said: "We've got to be confident after today. We are really pleased with how it went.

"I think we've been quite open and honest and answered all the questions put to us."

The New York delegates told the clubs they have secured an agreement with Virgin Atlantic to fly visiting teams and officials premium economy class to New York and agreed commercial deals with Hilton Hotels, Macron and Mastercard.

Feasey, a former business development manager at New Zealand Warriors who will take up the role of football manager of New York, says the consortium has also signed a deal with Pennsylvania-based production company NEP and are in discussions with ESPN-Plus about a broadcast deal.

Feasey says New York have two wealthy investors who wish to remain anonymous until the club get the go-ahead.

New York have agreed to lodge a bond with the RFL but there is no such requirement for Ottawa because they hold Hemel's membership of the RFL.

Perez, who provided clubs with a 40-page document in advance, has secured the backing of the prestigious Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and insists that sufficient finance is already in place.

"We have 15 owners and every single one of them is capable of funding this on his own," Perez said.