Brian McDermott Open Letter – September 8, 2020
08/09/2020 by admin
I must admit when the UK was first faced with the COVID-19 pandemic back in February I could not have foreseen just how challenging the next few months for myself, my players and the staff at Toronto Wolfpack would be.
From my initial planning for a short break of a couple of months, to the eventual reality that the Wolfpack would not be playing a single game in Canada in 2020, this season has become a nightmare for not only our club but for the Super League in general. The game as a whole has had to face up to one of its most serious challenges in its 125 year existence.
The whole club, its players and staff have been through an extremely stressful and anxious period, and we continue to face an air of uncertainty given we do not know what next year looks like. It is in this period where the club, and myself personally, have had the chance to self examine our state of readiness for the Super League season in 2020. After this period of self reflection and self analysis I feel it is right and proper to admit that we were under prepared both administratively as well as on the field within the football department.
I personally highlighted at the start of the year how I felt that certain rules and regulations were extremely difficult to abide by, and that some of them were near impossible for us to comply with. However I must admit the club and I were too distracted by those elements of our weekly challenges that we let slip certain aspects of our organisation which should have been tighter and better prepared.
– The management of our available cap spend was not as shrewd or as effective as we needed it to be.
– We needed to find a resolution to our overseas players visa situation a long time before we got promoted into Super League.
– The infrastructure of our club on the Canadian and the UK side was not as cohesive as it needed to be.
– Our relationship with both the governing bodies, both the RFL and Super League, have been strained to say the least. This is something that we should take responsibility for.
In short I feel that we were under prepared for Super League, and this showed as we got exposed both on and off the field during the early part of the 2020 season. We spent too much time antagonising too many people within the game, and not enough time preparing ourselves for a competition that takes no prisoners. We recognise we got our preparation wrong, made too many mistakes and were underprepared in certain areas, that will not happen again.
That said, no one could predict what has happened since mid March. I recall having a chat with David Argyle regarding the club’s finances and how confident David was regarding his own investments that would have supported and resourced the club through the year. I also recall the phone call I had with him about 14 days later where he admitted that the affect COVID was having on the financial sector, where he held his investments, was pretty damaging. David did maintain that ‘we will be good’, he would just have to work even harder each month to sustain the club.
Credit must go to David for the fact he ploughed on for 4 more months, unbeknown to everyone at the club, when he had literally run out of liquidity. He must receive huge applause for his contributions to Toronto Wolfpack so far while the gesture of him writing off his personal loans, to the tune of $20 million CAD, cannot be overstated and will be remembered for ever.
We have learned some harsh lessons in this time, but now we must look to the future.
We are excited. We have a potential new owner who possess the complete package of ownership that every club desires. He has the wealth to back up the club through its tough years of development. He has the business acumen to come up with a business plan to make the club self sustaining within a planned number of seasons. He also has the contacts within a thriving North American market to bring in further investors and additional investment into Toronto Wolfpack, and potentially the whole game of Rugby League.
The majority of our squad have stayed loyal and are awaiting the outcome for the club. I have been in contact with all our potential recruits for next year, and they have promised to stay with us.
I believe the potential for Toronto Wolfpack and Rugby League in North America is massive. It truly has a chance of taking off in a big way. That is easy for me to say that as I’ve seen it first hand, it really is impressive to see a sold out stadium in Canada watching Toronto Wolfpack play teams from the UK. The transatlantic concept still blows me away, while the appetite for any sport in the whole of North America is incomparable. It works, we have living proof, it is an up and running organisation that is promoting the sport of Rugby League in a huge way in the 4th largest city that side of the pond. The city and people of Toronto have embraced the Wolfpack as one of their sporting family, which is no small feat given the sporting heritage the city has.
However I am nervous about our reapplication into Super League. I know we have damaged bridges within the game and I know some may have already come to a judgment about us. I feel it would be an awful shame if did not now get the chance to showcase Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League to the city of Toronto. It does work, it has been working.
I personally feel that Rugby League and Super League is a more attractive sport with Toronto Wolfpack in it, one that has a real chance to reach wider audiences and impress potential investors. However I also understand that this will only be true if we are a well run organisation that complements Super League, rather than antagonise it. We as a club need to recognise we have not been as good as we needed to be to enhance the Super League.
Decisions will be made soon regarding our future. Both by a potential new owner who may or may not take over, by potential investors who only want to invest in a club that has Super League status, and finally by our governing bodies the RFL and Super League.
For the sake of a number of invested parties who want it to survive, our players and staff, our fans and sponsors, for the city of Toronto and maybe for the sake of the game as a whole, I respectfully hope that a brave and compassionate decision is made.