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Eric Perez: Toronto can make huge difference to rugby league

Eric Perez: Toronto can make huge difference to rugby league

Thursday 19 January 2017

Eric Perez: Toronto can make huge difference to rugby league


The Wolfpack will become the first professional trans-Atlantic sports club when it starts at the bottom of England’s rugby league pyramid.

Eric Perez believes the introduction of Toronto can have the biggest impact on rugby league since the breakaway of 1895.

The man behind the first professional trans-Atlantic sports club is so confident they will be a success in the bottom tier of the English professional game in 2017 that he is already eyeing up an all-Canadian Super League clash with Montreal and, as well as cracking the market in north America, has set his sights on Brazil and China.

The Wolfpack, who on Thursday unveiled a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Canadian airline Air Transat described by Perez as “one of the biggest in the history of rugby league”, will play their first competitive match against Challenge Cup holders Hull on Sunday as they build towards their opening Kingstone Press League 1 game against London Skolars on March 4.

“In the fullness of time, when people look back at it, they will think this is the next big stepping stone,” Perez told Press Association Sport.

“They will look at this and say ‘this is the time when we took control of our game’.

“It’s better than what it’s been. All the oppression that it’s been under for the last hundred years, we’re wiping away in markets that don’t care about class difference.

“I think this is going to be the time when things will move into a bigger and better direction.”

That direction will head across north America, if Perez gets his way.

“From minute one when I presented this to the RFL, we had a 10-15 year plan of expansion,” he said. “Montreal is next on the list. We hope to have a Montreal team in League 1 by 2019.

“We already a few pretty big ownership groups that are interested.

“Toronto is a city of six million people and, within an-hour’s radius, you’ve got 10 million. We’ve passed Chicago as the third biggest metropolitan centre in North America. After Montreal let’s get into the United States, Boston, New York and go from there.”

Perez, who discovered Super League while working in Birmingham five years ago, sold his own advertising agency to throw himself wholeheartedly into the project.

The Wolfpack, who are backed among others by wealthy Australian mining magnate David Argyle, will play home and away games in blocks of four and are covering the entire travelling and accommodation costs for opposing teams in League 1.

Under director of rugby Brian Noble, the former Bradford, Wigan and Great Britain boss, and head coach Paul Rowley, Toronto have assembled a 24-strong squad of full-time players who are expected to win promotion to the Championship at the first attempt.

Perez says he is not deterred by the prospect of one-sided victories and, ahead of schedule, is confident of having 7,000 season-ticket holders in time for the opening home game against Oxford on May 6.

He ran the Canadian national team for the first five years of its existence and claims he was drawing average crowds of 7,000 “for a level of rugby league that is infinitely lower than League 1”.

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