Robert Elstone hits back at claims surrounding Toronto's Super League expulsion

ROBERT Elstone has told the conspiracy theorists around Toronto Wolfpack’s Super League expulsion they are barking up the wrong tree.

Many critics have questioned the independent survey into whether it is worth having a top flight team across the Atlantic.

Prior agendas were claimed, apparent links with Elstone from his time in football highlighted and there were suggestions people that would have mattered were deliberately ignored.

But Super League boss Elstone has hit back at the claims, saying he believes it is what it says it is.

He also insists the fact the other 11 clubs voted on whether to let them in was right – they own Super League, just like football clubs own the Premier League.

Elstone, who insists grassroots rugby league in Canada was looked at, said: “Both reports evaluating the bid were absolutely independent, they were executive and objectively written. I’m absolutely convinced that was the case.

“We commissioned another report to look at the opportunity for commercial growth in Canada and in good faith we got support of our broadcast advisors, who had no agenda.

“We also got the support of two individuals, one of whom I’d never met and another I do know who has an incredibly strong and positive CV in commercial management in sport.

“I believe that report was independent, fair and balanced. In simple terms, the rewards so far are minimal, looking forward they were remote and uncertain and the risks were substantial.

“Of course it’s hugely emotive. That’s precisely why we went about it so professionally, thoroughly and diligently but we had to do what’s right by Super League.

“I don’t think we could’ve done anything differently.”

The fact clubs, the Super League board and the Rugby Football League voted 8-4 against Toronto, with one abstention, raised more questions over vested interests.

Hearing Elstone mention fan base as a consideration, when the Wolfpack attracted crowds of 10,000, did not go down well.

However, he pointed out there was never any clarity on what attendances meant for revenue.

Prospective owner Carlo LiVolsi hit out at ‘small minded’ and ‘archaic’ attitudes holding the league back.

But while a governance review is ongoing, Elstone was adamant in adding: “Material decisions that impact the Premier League are taken by its shareholders – that’s the clubs.

“If the Premier League decided it wanted to change the size of its competition or how promotion and relegation happens, that would be a process taken by the shareholders

“The business of Super League is owned by its clubs and there's therefore a strong case to say that big decisions should be taken by the owners of the businesses. Matters like the expulsion of a club needs to be taken by shareholders.”

Now Toronto have been voted out, the hunt is on for the 12th team, which will be picked around December 16.

Toulouse hope to become the second French side while York and London Broncos are among the favourites.

And Elstone admits the same criteria that applied to Toronto will be applied to them – and Covid-19 will be a consideration.

He said: “It's finding the right balance between a medium and long-term decision because all 12 clubs run the risk of being relegated, but we also need to be confident they can get to the start line on day one of the 2021 season.

“It should be a factor and it should be worth noting the way Catalans Dragons have responded and the way they've rolled their sleeves up and fulfilled their fixtures within the limitations of Covid.

“There's no reason another club can't do that. It should be a factor that should be considered but medium to long-term consideration is a priority too.

“The evaluation would be similar to Toronto in that locally is it successful, but more significantly is it a contributor to Super League and that would be around sponsors and broadcast revenues.”

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