Rugby league: Sonny Bill Williams' Toronto Wolfpack withdraw from Super League

Sonny Bill Williams' Toronto Wolfpack have withdrawn from the Super League midway through their first season in the competition. 

The Canadian outfit won promotion to the Super League a year ago, but owing to the "overwhelming financial challenges" posed by the COVID-19  pandemic, they have opted to withdraw from the rest of the campaign.

The club says they still "fully intend to field a team in the 2021 season".

North America's highest-profile rugby league team made headlines around the world last year, when they signed former All Black Williams on a multi-million dollar deal.

"This decision has not been taken lightly and in consideration of a range of factors specific to the club as the only trans-Atlantic team in the league," the club says.

"Greatly reduced ticket, sponsorship, merchandise and gameday revenue streams have resulted from the loss of all 11 of the team's home Super League games in Toronto.

"The Wolfpack would be left covering significant additional costs simply to complete a season of games in the UK, including COVID-19 testing, stadium rentals, medical costs and player-pay increases to align with the rest of the league."

The league is scheduled to restart on August 2 and organisers say they are "very disappointed" to learn of the Wolfpack's decision.

"Super League Europe and the RFL have been in regular dialogue with the Wolfpack over the past weeks and months, regarding the club's ability to take part in the competition, and firm assurances had been received as recently as last Thursday," Super League says.

"The club's decision is especially disappointing, given the imminent restart of the season."

Williams' two-year deal, NZ$10m deal made him the highest-paid player in rugby league history.