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Wolfpack forced to wait on whether relegation will be on the table in 2020


TORONTO — The Toronto Wolfpack, currently at the bottom of the Betfred Super League standings at 0-6-0, will have to wait a little longer to find out whether relegation will be taken off the table in the 2020 pandemic-disputed season.

Super League clubs and officials have made it clear they don't think it is fair that a team be relegated given the lengthy hiatus due to COVID-19. The ball is now in the court of the Rugby Football League, which did not rule on the issue at its board meeting Monday.

The RFL says it will decide on promotion/relegation by July 23 at the latest. That date will also serve as a deadline for ruling on the resumption of play in the second- and third-tier Betfred Championship and League 1.

The Super League, which last played March 15, is set to resume Aug. 2

The lack of clarity with regards to promotion/relegation makes personnel planning difficult for teams, according to Wolfpack chairman and CEO Bob Hunter.

"If you don't know whether you're going to be promoted or potentially relegated, what level of commitment are you going to make?" he asked.

While Hunter said he was confident of his transatlantic rugby league team's ability to turn things around, "sitting at 0-6-0, not having played now for three months, we've got a long way to come back," he said.

The bottom team in Super League was slated to go down, to be replaced with the winner of the second-tier Championship.

The Wolfpack will be one of six clubs in action when the sport resumes with a triple-header in England on Aug. 2 before empty stands.

The RFL says a majority of the 25 Championship and League 1 clubs have said playing matches behind closed doors is impractical given the costs and other logistical issues.

The hope is the clubs will be able to resume play later this year with some fans in the stands, providing some gate revenue.

The Super League has yet to announce the rest of its revamped schedule although Hunter says it should be released in the next few days. Given that time frame and current quarantine and travel restrictions, Hunter says it is "highly unlikely" that the Wolfpack will be able to stage games in Toronto this season.

"Logistically, it's a major major undertaking," he said.

The Wolfpack, in their first season in Super League, have not played since March 11, when they blanked Huddersfield 18-0 in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup.

All of their games have been in England this year. The Wolfpack's home opener at Lamport Stadium had been slated for April 18.

Under the original schedule, nine of Toronto's first 10 games were to be played in England with the other in France — with the late start due to the Canadian winter and the bubble over Lamport yet to come down.

The Wolfpack were to play 11 of their last 19 games at home, with the season wrapping up Sept. 11. Three other home games were to be played at neutral sites in England.

The RFL board did approve the suspension of scrums for the remainder of the season as well as the "Six Again" rule, which allows the majority of ruck infringements to be penalized by a restart of the tackle count rather than leading to a stoppage in play with a penalty.

The RFL also simplified its roster rules, allowing the Wolfpack to sign seven non-U.K. players.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2020.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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