Toronto Wolfpack's Super League future is in increasing doubt after a warning that they could face sanctions for withdrawing from the remainder of the 2020 season less than two weeks before the competition's scheduled re-start.
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has refused to commit to Wolfpack, who had lost all six of their matches prior to the shutdown, retaining their place for 2021 despite a decision to suspend relegation and promotion for the current campaign.
The uncertainty adds to growing concerns over the Wolfpack's financial plight, with chairman Bob Hunter conceding in an interview with Canadian broadcaster TSN that the club have missed multiple payroll dates over the last year.
Elstone told Sky Sports News: "The short-term priority is re-adjusting and re-aligning 2020. I think in the medium term we have to look at any potential sanctions for Toronto's actions.. and in the longer term, it's a dialogue with the Wolfpack, with the Super League and with our clubs about the club's long-term plans and status in Super League."
Toronto announced their withdrawal from the rest of the season on Monday, citing the "overwhelming financial challenges" during the coronavirus crisis.
However, Hunter admitted the club were already facing significant financial issues, after an expected investment by "external investment partners" failed to materialise.
He admitted to TSN: "On two or three occasions in the last six or eight months, we've missed our payroll date, but they [the players] have always been paid."
And Hunter appeared to be preparing for the worst when he conceded one of the potential sanctions facing the club could be a decision to effectively end the trans-Atlantic experiment, which is already set to expand with the 2021 entry into League 1 of the Ottawa Aces.
Hunter added: "The ideal situation is we stay in Super League and we compete in 2021. We could get demoted, and the worst case is that they tell us they don't want us to play any more. I'm hoping that's not the case."
Meanwhile Elstone effectively ruled out the possibility of bringing in another club to replace Wolfpack on a short-term basis, after Championship club Featherstone Rovers made their case in the wake of Toronto's withdrawal.
"I think bringing a team in midway through the competition is difficult," added Elstone. "There are all sorts of questions about what basis you do it on and what impact it has on the league, so I think my initial reaction is that it would be difficult to see us doing anything other than playing with 11 teams for the remainder of the season."