Wolfpack notified of pay cuts as rugby league reacts during pandemic

Toronto Wolfpack star Sonny Bill Williams is on the move, with the Sydney Roosters looking forward to adding the former All Black to its lineup. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

Toronto Wolfpack players and staff have been sent word outlining wage cuts due to the suspension of play during the global pandemic.

CEO Bob Hunter confirmed the letters Friday, saying that all those still on the payroll are affected. The transatlantic rugby league team laid off its Canadian-based staff — 12 full-time employees — in March until the Super League resumes play.

The BBC reports that all 12 Super League clubs have sent out similar letters, with the player wage cuts varying depending on size of salary.

The cuts were decided after talks with rugby league authorities, club owners and player representatives. The Wolfpack are due to get their next paycheque this weekend.

“We’re trying to be as fair as possible within the pay structure,” Wolfpack coach Brian McDermott told The Canadian Press on Thursday. “There’s clearly some guys who get paid more than others. Hopefully that will be reflected in the levels of cuts.

“We’re not on our own. The whole of Super League’s doing it, the whole of sport’s doing it. The whole world’s going through it.”

McDermott expects “at least a 40 per cent pay cut … in some cases 60 or 70 per cent” for players and staff.

The Wolfpack (0-6-0) are currently in England, where the team has some 15 staffers.

The Toronto team was slated to play its home opener against Hull FC on Saturday, marking the Canadian debut of former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams at Lamport Stadium. Hunter said a sellout was expected at the 9,600-capacity venue.

As a Canadian-owned entity, the Wolfpack aren’t eligible for COVID-19 wage assistance from the British government and Hunter says it seems none of the Canadian programs available will cover the Wolfpack players.

Hunter says the club is investigating whether it might be eligible for loans still being formalized by federal agencies such as Export Development Canada.

“Credit to (majority owner) David Argyle in this instance in that he’s standing by the club. To a massive expense to him,” said McDermott.

Super League teams operate under a salary cap of 2.1 million pounds ($3.7 million) although that number can grow given teams are allowed two marquee players whose salary cap hit is limited to 150,000 pounds ($263,180) per person.

Toronto’s marquee men are Williams and Australian-born Samoan international centre Ricky Leutele.

The Wolfpack playing roster stands at 22, not counting trialists and loanees. That’s one of the smallest in Super League, with McDermott saying the team has to pay a premium to attract players willing to leave their families to go play in Canada part of the season.

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