By PA Sport
Last Updated: 19/05/19 11:26am
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone says Toulouse could be a perfect fit for the top flight.
Elstone paid a visit to the ambitious Championship club on his way to Barcelona for Saturday’s ground-breaking Super League fixture between Catalans and Wigan at the Nou Camp, where a record crowd of 31,555 watched the Dragons win 33-16.
The Rugby Football League is expected to announce this week whether New York and Ottawa will get the chance to follow the North American trail blazed by Toronto by entering League One from 2020.
Toronto, who were promoted to the Championship in their first season in 2017, are favourites to go up to Super League this season but are facing strong competition from Toulouse, who are the only team to beat them so far this year.
With a sound infrastructure and a history of rugby league in the south-west of France stretching back to 1937, Elstone believes Toulouse tick many of the boxes required for entry into the top flight as they seek to set up an all-French Super League derby with Catalans.
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“Expansion feels to me more secure, more sustainable where there is a natural affection for the game, where people play the game, where people watch the game and where people understand the game and that’s very much true in the south-west of France,” Elstone said.
Toulouse, who are in their second spell in the Championship, beat Toronto 46-16 in front of a crowd of 6,103 at Stade Ernest Argeles in Blagnac in March and, although the Canadian club gained their revenge with a 42-14 victory at the Summer Bash in Blackpool on Saturday, the two clubs are set to meet again in the promotion-deciding play-offs at the end of the season.
They showed me some of their marketing material which is good and they have a business community behind them which creates a revenue stream, which not many Super League clubs have.
Robert Elstone on Toulouse
Elstone, who also attended a match in Toronto towards the end of last season, was impressed by the Toulouse club during his whistle-stop trip.
“It’s incredibly hard on a half-day visit to gauge their suitability but the staff I met were really good people, really proud of what they are doing,” he said.
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“They showed me some of their marketing material which is good and they have a business community behind them which creates a revenue stream, which not many Super League clubs have.
“And potentially they have a really good new home, the rugby union ground which they seem very close to securing for next season. That will be an amazing stadium for them.
“They are key ingredients but they have to win that status on the playing field.”