Cross-code rugby international Sonny Bill Williams has reportedly been given a minority stake in the Toronto Wolfpack as part of a lucrative move to the newly-promoted Super League side.
Williams, 34, has signed a two-year contract believed to be worth around £5m ($6.4m) to spearhead the Canadian side’s debut season in English rugby league’s top flight in 2020.
It will make him the highest paid player in the history of either code: rugby union or rugby league. But his marquee status means that only the first £150,000 of his wages will count towards Toronto’s salary cap.
Williams won the Rugby World Cup twice with the All Blacks, in 2011 and 2015, and appeared in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final for New Zealand. He recently took part in the Rugby World Cup in Japan, where the All Blacks finished in third place.
“Having someone of his talent join the Wolfpack will greatly raise the profile of the club, and also help move the game forward globally,” Bob Hunter, the Wolfpack chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby’s LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy.”
Toronto are currently losing money due to the high costs of being a transatlantic sports team. But it is hoped the arrival of Williams, and possibly other stars, will significantly boost the club’s revenues in the short and long term.
Toronto are also hoping to turn their first season in Super League into a documentary series.