The Toronto Arrows will not play in the 2024 MLR season. The breaking news was announced on Monday night that the Arrows will not play participate in 2024, after exhaustive efforts to sustain the organisation.
A sad result for the franchise, who came into Major League Rugby in 2019 (the other being Rugby United New York; now known as Rugby New York).
2024 MLR season – Toronto Arrows will not participate
— Toronto Arrows RC (@TorontoArrows) November 28, 2023
The Arrows, a team that has been in existence in MLR since 2019, will not be around in 2024. Unfortunately, the passing of co-founder Bill Webb played a part in the Arrows moving out of Canada as mentioned above. This is what Nic Benson, the CEO of the league said about the decision (source: MLR News):
“We’re deeply grateful to the leadership of the Toronto Arrows who have cared so deeply about supporting and growing the game of rugby in Canada. Our immediate focus is on doing right by the Club and its players, as operations wind down,” said Nic Benson, CEO of MLR.
This is not the news the Toronto Arrows fans and media wanted to hear. However, this writer is thinking about the people who work for the organization and who made the game day experience something to be a part of. Also, it is important to note that the Arrows said that the team has not folded and that they are working towards the continuation of the Arrows Academy.
What the Toronto Arrows plan to do moving forward
It is unknown right now what the future for the Arrows will be. They seem committed to their academy and growing the game of rugby union. Is there a pro league for the Arrows to join in 2025? No one knows.
Losing the Arrows would be a loss for the rugby union community in Canada. In terms of men’s rugby union, the only positive as been with the Toronto team. Actually, in the interview with Bill Webb, he gave a pathway on how he plans to make Rugby Canada men’s team competitive once again on the worldwide stage.
— Toronto Arrows RC (@TorontoArrows) November 16, 2023
The only thing known for sure is that the Toronto Arrows Senior Academy may still be exist beyond this point. This past season, they won the Coast-to-Coast Cup this year. The Arrows also made a big splash into the rugby union community in Canada, as seen in the Rugby Canada men’s latest game for the game against Brazil on November 18.
Can a MLR Team return to Toronto or Canada?
Toronto is the most obvious city, with the fifth largest population in North America (four if excluding Mexico City) according to World Population Review, and with a decent crowd for games at York Lion Stadium with the Arrows, it makes sense for Toronto to be back in MLR.
The other city being mentioned a lot is Vancouver, which has exciting plans for not just Vancouver, but also Rugby Canada as a whole.
Still, it is very hard to get a MLR or even a SLAR (the extinct Superliga Americana de Rugby) franchise. It requires a lot of capital and Webb was the driving force of the Arrows. There is a reason why British Columbia has tried to get a team so many times, yet have failed at each attempt.
“Thank you Toronto Arrows” from Last Word on Rugby
Raheem Bashir, the author of this article, covered the Arrows for a portion of 2019 and 2020, but not extensively as the main North American coverage was on the Toronto Wolfpack at that time. When the Wolfpack had their own financial difficulties and lost their Betfred Super League status, Bashir went on to cover the Arrows extensively from the start of 2021 onwards.
One of the early articles covering the Arrows was talking to Webb on behalf of Last Word on Rugby. One can see the passion Webb had for the game and for the sport of rugby union. A big thanks to Webb for developing the franchise and it’s imprint on the sport in North America, which allowed this writer and many others to cover rugby extensively during the team’s matches within MLR.
Also, thanks to those who have read this network’s articles covering the Arrows over the last four years.
NEW EP ALERT!
In this special memorial episode, the lads pay tribute to @TorontoArrows owner, Bill Webb, and with stories from our listeners, reflect on the positive impact he had on Canadian rugby.
— Le Rouge Rugby (@Lerougerugby) September 7, 2023
A big thanks should also go to former LWOR writer, Karen Gasbarino-Knuut (@gasbarnut12). She was, and still is the super fan for the Arrows and was always supportive and positive about the articles written by this writer, whether that was about the Arrows, Rugby Canada, or otherwise. Also, a big thanks to Randall Clint McKeown, who allowed this writer to appear on his podcast twice, on the Randy Rugby Podcast.
As well, a big thanks to the media who covered this team extensively. This includes people that Bashir met at the MLR press box, like Nii from Pro Sports Podcasters, and Derek Bressette and Stu Hardy from Le Rouge Rugby.
Lastly, thank you to Brock Smith, the Manager of Communications for the Toronto Arrows back office. He promptly provided LWOR and Bashir with any help needed; in terms of photos and helped with media accreditation.
This news definitely hurts for everyone in the Arrows community, but hopefully the memories and connections made with the team lasts forever.
Finally, maybe there is hope for Toronto to have another pro team in a rugby union league – whether that in the form of ‘an Arrows come back’ or a brand new group entering in to a professional rugby union league. This is what Benson said about the Arrows’ departure from MLR: “We look forward to exploring options to bring a team back to Canada in the future.”
Photo Credit: Barry McCluskey of the Toronto Arrows on June 17, 2023.