TORONTO — Eric Perez, who helped bring professional rugby league to North America in the form of the Toronto Wolfpack, now has an ownership stake in another club.
Perez confirmed he is part of the consortium that has acquired Hemel Stags, who withdrew from the third-tier League 1 for the 2019 season with an eye to returning in 2020.
The Stags, on their website, say they have been acquired by a Canadian consortium.
The board of the Rugby Football League, the governing body of English rugby league, considered at a meeting last week an application to relocate the Hemel franchise as well as a separate application to launch a club in New York.
"Both applications are judged to have the potential to help deliver the RFL's strategic vision," the RFL said in a statement. "They are at different stages, but a degree of further due diligence and assessment is required on both to ensure that the financial and business plans presented are deliverable.
"In addition, the board recognizes the importance of further expansion having the support of the other clubs. Accordingly, the board has asked each of the consortia to present to, and take questions from, the existing Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs, after which the RFL will gauge support."
The RFL declined to say where the new ownership group wanted to move Hemel but Perez has made no secret of his desire to establish more clubs in North America.
Hamilton, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia have been mentioned in the past as possible expansion sites.
There has been talk of a team in New York since 2017 when Tom Scott and Ricky Wilby, speaking for an interested group, expressed hope of becoming rugby league's second transatlantic team.
Their plan was to play in Red Bull Arena in suburban Harrison, N.J.
Perez originally hatched the idea of bringing the sport of rugby league — and a team to Toronto — to Canada on a fish-and-chips wrapper. And as founder and CEO, he was the front-office face of the Wolfpack when its blueprint was announced in 2016.
But he has since stepped back from the Wolfpack to work on further expanding the game while remaining on the team's board of directors.
David Argyle, a Toronto-based Australian entrepreneur who heads up the Wolfpack ownership group, has taken a more prominent public role with the team.
The Wolfpack entered the league in 2017, winning promotion that year to the second-tier Betfred Championship. Toronto missed out on promotion to the Super League last October when it lost the so-called Million Pound Game 4-2 to the London Broncos.
The Wolfpack (6-1-0) currently top the Championship. The club also now holds a minority ownership in the London Skolars, who play in League 1.
The Stags debuted in 1981 in Hemel Hempstead. located 35 kilometres northwest of London. The club says it will continue to operate a community rugby league side, the Hemel Hempstead Amateur Rugby League Club.
In addition to Toronto, the RFL currently has two French clubs in Catalan Dragons (in the Super League) and Toulouse Olympique (in the Championship).
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press