Sonny Bill free to return to Australia, says club boss
Sonny Bill Williams has been given the green light to play in Australia from his Super League team, but the Toronto Wolfpack hope his equity in the club will lure him back next season.
Williams was expected to sign up for the Sydney Roosters, and was due to make his way back to Australia within days with his wife Alana and their four children.
He has been stuck in Manchester during the coronavirus pandemic after the UK Super League season, which the Wolfpack played in, was cancelled.
David Argyle, the billionaire Australian who owns the Wolfpack, said that Williams was free to go.
Williams was reportedly on a two-year $10 million contract with Toronto.
Argyle, while refusing to reveal or confirm the full contract details, said that Williams would have a long term link to the franchise.
"No-one has reported that a contribution to the wages included equity in the club," he said.
"It's relatively unique for a player to get equity in a club, the precedent was set with David Beckham when he went to the Galaxy (a Major League Soccer team).
"All the teams in the league paid Beckham to join the Galaxy, every team chipped in."
The Wolfpack has pulled out of the remaining 2020 season, which was due to start on August 2 because it had lost all its home games due to travel restrictions.
The club was forced to beg for a chance to stay in the Super League in 2021 at a board meeting on Friday.
The Wolfpack does not have voting rights on the Super League board and does not share in television revenue from the sport.
It had hoped to sign its own television deal on the back of its 2 billion media impressions last season, but it was cut short by the pandemic.
The club wanted to use Williams' signing to propel it into the North American market.
Argyle said that the Wolfpack was a "beachhead" in the market for the sport, and that Williams was an important marquee player.
He said that the NRL should be pushing to have more games shown on television in America and Canada, particularly while there was a shortage of sport in the US.
"They are watching Bundesliga now," he said, referring to Germany's soccer league.
He said he was not aware of Williams' travel plans or whether a deal with the Roosters had been made official.
The club had wanted to sign a letter releasing Williams but allowing him to say he would return to the Wolfpack next year.
However, the NRL did not allow a player to be contracted at two clubs.
Williams also had an issue with his UK visa, because the Canadian based club was unable to sponsor him.
He entered the UK on a six-month tourist visa, which was standard for him and six other players at the Wolfpack.
But they have been stuck in Britain because of travel restrictions and were not at risk of overstaying their visas.
Williams will have to quarantine for two weeks when he arrives in Australia, but he has still been training on his own during lockdown.
Originally published as Sonny Bill free to return to Australia, says club boss