18th Man Column: Wigan Today

As featured online at Wigan Today and in print via the Wigan Evening Post

Away from “pitch-gate” this week and what was a very impressive come back from Wigan – Toronto made their competitive debut in the Challenge Cup against Siddal. Who would have thought, a few years ago, that Siddal v Toronto would be a Challenge Cup tie, broadcast by the BBC! For those who watched it online, it was everything you would want the game to be, played in muddy conditions, a close score line, a red card and the camera, inadvertently capturing someone relieving themselves in the bushes (only in rugby league!).

I have been watching the development of the Toronto club with interest since the official announcement last season from CEO, Eric Perez and to be honest, I have been watching the developments with the typical rugby league fan’s cynical mind and opinion of, ‘it will never work.’ Examples of Celtic Crusaders, Gateshead Thunder, Paris St Germain etc etc leave us with not too much optimism for the success of the world’s first Trans-Atlantic team. However, I must confess, I am impressed. Everything they have done so far has been classy, stylish and for me, exactly what rugby league needs. Their sponsorship deal with AirTransat is said to be the biggest sponsorship deal ever seen outside the Super League. Their kit sponsorship with Kappa has produced two very nice kits, which will appeal to those in the UK who are looking to purchase the very first Toronto jersey.

The Wolfpack have sold nearly 5,000 season tickets for their inaugural season in League One. That is incredibly impressive, an attendance of 5,000 at a London Broncos game would be seen as an achievement, to have a guaranteed 5,000 fans at Toronto v Barrow Raiders for example, is remarkable. They are filling column inches in the UK and Canada, a simple Google search shows recent reports in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent as well as Australian newspapers. Last week, their travel packages for away supporters were released and they are very competitively priced and when Toronto get to the Super League, I can imagine these being very popular. The costs, depending on the time of year, are very similar with a typical Catalans away trip – the first time Wigan play in Toronto, expect a lot of Wiganers making the trip over!

Eric Perez looks to be a breath of fresh air to rugby league, he is positive about the expansion of the sport and in such a short period, has created a recognisable brand which could pave the way for more expansion teams in North America. It is still early days of course, but if every expansion team that we have seen fade away in the Super League era had the start that the Wolfpack have created then I think we would be playing a lot more games away from the M62 corridor.

It’s time to get behind Perez and run with the Wolfpack, I hope to see them in Super League as soon as possible.

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