Toronto Wolfpack owner David Argyle has confirmed that the club’s long-standing visa issues could mean they cannot fulfil the Super League season.
The Canadian club’s seven overseas players – including superstar Sonny Bill Williams – are all on visas that limit them to six months a year in the UK, which has now expired in each case because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wolfpack have experienced visa difficulties throughout their three a half year existence, with Australian prop Darcy Lussick last year refused re-entry to the country.
The club has been in regular dialogue with the Rugby Football League and Super League over the matter, after being told by the Home Office they cannot deal directly with them.
But with no progress having been made, Argyle says the issue has now reached “crunch time”, and jeopardises the club’s ability to fulfil the 2020 season.
Super League are due to announce this year’s reworked fixture list this week.
Argyle said: “We have laid this out to Super League and the RFL today and it’s an issue that we can’t keep kicking down the road.
“It’s always been a big issue for us and it hasn’t been resolved, and if it isn’t resolved now then I don’t see any way we can participate in the rest of this season.
“It’s been suggested to us that we could loan young players from other clubs, but we’re not here to make up the numbers and we never have been. We didn’t hire Brian McDermott as coach to do that.
“We also feel that it would be dangerous for us to fill our squad with other club’s juniors, especially at a time when players might only have four days’ rest between matches.”
McDermott’s small squad had been stretched to its limits before the coronavirus shutdown after a host of injuries, and with no reserve team or academy, losing seven overseas players would leave them short of even a basic starting 17.
Argyle added: “Player welfare is our highest priority and the anxiety that our players have every time they come back into the country needs to stop.
“We joined this competition in the belief that we would have the full support of the RFL – and ultimately success in resolving this visa issue.
“This has been going on for three and a half years now and this Covid situation has exacerbated it.
“I’m not blaming anybody – I can understand the bureaucratic position and we are only a very small issue for an organisation like the Home Office.
“But we’ve come to a crunch point now where it needs to be resolved.”
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