• September 30, 2022

29 Sep 2022
Sports management company IMG has presented its recommendations for significant changes to rugby league, with the scrapping of relegation for selected clubs one of the major suggestions.
The recommendations, made to rugby league’s governing body the Rugby Football League (RFL), have arisen from the Reimagining Rugby League Consultation Project –the first phase of the agency’s 12-year strategic partnership with the sport.
One of the key proposals is that top-flight rugby clubs must meet on and off-field criteria to be guaranteed a place in the Super League, rugby league’s top competition, with the aim of increasing financial stability and increasing investment into the game.
The plan would see ‘Category A’ clubs made immune from relegation, with ‘Category B’ clubs assessed annually to decide whether they are fit to remain in the top tier.
The remaining clubs would fill the second and third divisions, currently the Championship and League One, with clubs continuing to move between those leagues.
Participation of clubs outside of the UK, such as French sides Catalans Dragons and Toulouse, would also be capped to support domestic growth.
IMG claim that the recommendations have been made following extensive consultation with key stakeholders across rugby league, including clubs, broadcasters, sponsors, media, players, representatives from the community game and international partners, as well as a survey of supporters attracting almost 20,000 responses.
IMG has described it as the ‘most comprehensive piece of consultation ever undertaken on the sport.’
“This is a significant day in terms of setting out a new path for the sport.
Other key recommendations included a global calendar which is joined up with international matches, a push for a strategy to boost the women’s and girls’ games, and new brand strategy.
Clubs have been invited to a follow-up meeting on 13th October, at which they will have the opportunity to provide further feedback, and support will be sought to enable the RFL and IMG to work on the detail of the recommendations.
Simon Johnson, the Chair of the Rugby Football League, said, “This is a significant day in terms of setting out a new path for the sport. We have prioritised transparency, in sharing these recommendations first with clubs and then with fans through the media.
“It is very much a direction of travel in these top-line recommendations, with significant layers of detail still to be worked through. But these proposals contain both a recognition of the need to make significant changes to address a range of challenges facing the sport at all levels, and recommendations for those changes which have the potential to transform the approach, mood and reality of rugby league in the UK and beyond.”
Ken Davy, the Chair of Super League (Europe), added, “Founded solidly on the realignment of Super League and the RFL this has been an all-encompassing process conducted by IMG, with all of the key stakeholders within the sport playing important roles in it.
“We would like to thank the clubs, broadcasters, commercial partners and supporters that have contributed to IMG’s recommendations, which set out a new future for rugby league and can take it in a bold and positive direction. At Super League we look forward to the next stage of this comprehensive process, working towards providing further updates that will map out the sport’s long-term future.”
Matt Dwyer, Vice President, Sports Management, IMG, also commented, “Having now had the opportunity to dive deeper into the sport, including through consultations with all key stakeholders of the game, our excitement for this 12-year strategic partnership and what can be achieved has only increased.
“We have a unique opportunity to alter the growth trajectory of the sport and we believe the recommendations we have presented today will provide the foundation for that growth and attract new investment into the game. Our approach is focused on the product and leveraging the full expertise of IMG and the broader Endeavor network to create a high-quality entertainment offering for the fans.”
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