Toronto Wolfpack buy minority share in rugby league’s London Skolars

Toronto Wolfpack have strengthened their ties to the sport of rugby league by buying a minority stake in the London Skolars.

The Skolars play in the third-tier League 1, one division below the Betfred Championship where the Wolfpack will play next season. The London side was formed in 1995.

“We are very excited at this opportunity to combine the brand power of the two global cities of London and Toronto,” David Argyle, the Wolfpack’s principal owner, said in a statement. “Importantly our investment allows us to satisfy two of Toronto Wolfpack’s core values; in expanding and accelerating our platform to put rugby balls in kids’ hands, and further developing transatlantic trade for our partners.

“London Skolars have a fantastic history and worked tirelessly for almost 25 years to establish rugby league on the U.K. capital’s sporting map. We intend to support the Skolars and do all we can to continue building on that success.”

The Wolfpack said their ownership stake in the Skolars was a “sizable minority” share. The two teams will collaborate on digital marketing and other services.

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Toronto started life in League 1 in 2017, topping the table to win promotion. The Wolfpack came close to climbing into the top-tier Super League in 2018 but lost 4-2 in a promotion showdown to the other team from London, the Broncos.

The Wolfpack and Skolars have history.

Toronto played its first-ever competitive game, in March 2017, against the Skolars at their New River Stadium in London. Toronto also played Halifax in a league game at the Skolars’ home in 2018 and sent Victoria’s Quinn Ngawati and American Ryan Burroughs on loan spells to the London team.

“This financial and business partnership with a fellow key global city will allow us to amplify our own ambitions and work together to elevate through the leagues and establish a club capable of eventually reaching and competing in Super League,” said Skolars majority owner Hector McNeil.

“London, to many, is the most important commercial and sporting city in Europe, possibly the world, whilst North America is showing a genuine thirst for expanding Rugby League in a key sporting market. This partnership reflects that and moves those wheels around.”

The Wolfpack, under new coach Brian McDermott, will open their third season Feb. 3 at the newly promoted York City Knights and play their first 11 games on the road.

The home opener at Lamport Stadium is April 28 against Swinton Lions.

Toronto, continuing its goal to help spread the rugby league message, is looking at playing a game in Serbia this season.

The club hopes to take an April 7 matchup with Sheffield Eagles to Serbia with Belgrade reportedly the site. The Red Star Belgrade Rugby League Club is taking part in the Challenge Cup in 2019 and hopes to join League 1 in 2020.

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