Eric Perez hopes to see Ontario Super League derby in the future
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 21/03/19 10:43am
Canadian Eric Perez would love to see an Ontario Super League derby between Toronto and Ottawa but insists his new club's route to the top of the English pyramid will be more measured than that of his old one.
Perez, who founded the Wolfpack three years ago before relinquishing control to David Argyle, has now bought the licence of Hemel Stags and wants to re-locate them to Canada's capital.
If Perez's plans are approved by the Rugby Football League following consultation with the rest of the Championship and League One clubs, Hemel will partner with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and play matches at the 24,000-capacity TD Place Stadium.
Perez, who says he scoured North America before settling on Ottawa, insists he is not going head to head with New York, who also have an application to join League One from 2020, and hopes to form a fierce rivalry with Toronto, 280 miles due west of the capital.
"I want the Wolfpack to be successful so I wouldn't want to put a team in their backyard but I want to put it somewhere where it could help build the Canadian market," Perez said.
"Ottawa is the next biggest English city. We're at opposite ends of Ontario so we've basically locked out Ontario as well as Western Quebec.
"It's a perfect rival and a perfect complement to the Wolfpack."
While Perez wants to adopt the Toronto model by funding all travel and accommodation costs of away teams and by starting out in the third tier of the professional game, he will not follow Argyle's example of throwing money at the fledgling club in a bid to fast-track their promotion to Super League.
"I think we're going to do this in a more measured way," he said. "We're not looking to sky rocket to Super League by running through the divisions, we're building it a bit slower and trying to lay a strong foundation.
"I think the Championship is an extremely attractive competition and the standard in League One is really good too so, if we had to stay there for some time, to me it only helps those divisions become more commercially viable."
As part of his long-term plans, Perez wants to see Canadians in the Ottawa team and believes the area is ripe for conversion from both rugby union and Canadian (gridiron) football.
"You need to build these things over time and with infrastructure," he said.
"There is a lot of great infrastructure around Ottawa with schools and universities and the rugby community is really big there. I personally think there is some talent that is good enough right now to make the step, especially into League One.
"When you walk around the facilities of the University of Ottawa and the Carleton University you see the incredible athletes they are producing in Canadian football, which is probably the closest sport to rugby league.
"These athletes just need a little bit of up-skilling and little bit of inspiration and that's what Toronto and the Ottawa re-location will provide."