Coronavirus: Super League clubs consider suspending relegation

Toronto Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter insists there is confidence the 2020 season will resume

Ian Laybourn
Tuesday 31 March 2020 12:17
Super League could suspend relegation due to the coronavirus pandemic
Super League could suspend relegation due to the coronavirus pandemic

Toronto Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter remains confident of a resumption of the 2020 Super League season but says clubs are discussing the possibility of suspending relegation.

The newly promoted Wolfpack are currently bottom of the table and favourites for automatic relegation after losing their opening six matches but Hunter insists his views are not motivated by self-interest and that other clubs are supportive of the idea.

“We, amongst other clubs, have voiced our opinion that we don’t think that this is a good year to do it but that’s an RFL decision,” Hunter told the PA news agency.

“It has nothing to do with our zero and six record and I know we’re not alone in expressing that. The year has been so disruptive, I just don’t think it’s fair to any team.”

Super League has been on hold since March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic and club representatives will discuss the latest situation during a video conference call on Tuesday afternoon.

The Wolfpack have played all six matches so far in England due to a combination of the harsh Canadian winter and the unavailability of their local authority-owned Lamport Stadium until April.

Their Easter fixture with Catalans Dragons in Perpignan is certain to be postponed and Toronto’s run of three home games, starting with the visit of Hull FC on April 18, is set to follow suit.

Both Toronto and the Catalans are affected by overseas travel restrictions and Hunter concedes his club may have to switch more fixtures to the UK.

“Everything is up in the air,” Hunter said. “Until the restrictions are relaxed, we’re in a bit of a no-man’s land as to when we can start playing again.

“I think everyone is optimistic that we can play, realistically no-one knows what that might be.

Bob Hunter is confident the 2020 season will resume

“We’re looking at a bunch of different options. There’s lots of draft fixtures floating around – they’re looking at extending the season by a couple of months and trying to bringing in midweek matches which are going to be tough on the players.

“Governments will decide when we will be back and the other challenge is whether it is at similar dates. What may be the case in Canada may be different in the UK. The UK could be back quicker.

“It’s complicated by the fact that the airlines aren’t flying and that there are serious restrictions on global travel.

“It could end up that we have to play more games in the UK than we had planned but, if that is the only hardship, then we stand by what the league wants to do.

“If we actually can fit in 11 games in Canada, that’s the ideal scenario, if it’s a few less, not perfect but, I think if the league wants to start and Canada isn’t ready, then certainly we’re going to start, for sure.”

In the meantime, the Canadian club have laid off office staff in Toronto and are looking into the possibility of furloughing their players, who pay tax in both countries.

“It’s a very unique situation,” Hunter added. “All the players are employees of a Canadian company so it’s whether the players are eligible for that subsidy as UK and international residents. We are looking into it.”

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