Super League: Relegation scrapped for leading clubs in radical new plans from IMG – Sky Sports

  • September 29, 2022

Rugby League News
Last Updated: 28/09/22 3:25pm
Relegation would be scrapped for the Super League’s top clubs in radical new plans for the sport proposed by its new strategic partner, sports management company IMG.
On Wednesday, after months of analysis, proposals were put forward to the 37 clubs in the RFL on how the sport can move forward, with small changes to radical overhauls discussed among the rugby league community.
In the “Reimagining Rugby League Consultation Project”, IMG have put forward seven key measures that they believe will drive the sport’s long-term growth as IMG, the RFL and Super League embark on a 12-year strategic partnership.
They have been working with the sport and its partners to find a path forward from 2024 onwards that increases revenue and engagement, with the recommendations set out the first step of that plan and according to Simon Johnson, Chairman of the Rugby Football League, the proposals “landed very well” with clubs.
The main recommendations from IMG are as follows:
The stand-out proposal is a top tier that will be decided on both “on and off field” criteria, a grading system deciding participation in the league.
How many clubs will be in this league is not yet outlined but there would then be a league of “Category B” clubs that participate in the second and third tier and continue with promotion and relegation.
These clubs that are considered “Category B” will be reassessed annually and the highest ranking clubs will take part in the top tier.
The criteria for grading will be announced before the start of next season and will be introduced on an illustrative basis in 2024 before being rolled out fully in 2025. Category A are in top tier, Category B in top tier when space available and Category C will be in the second and third tier.
Further to the proposals set out, IMG have also recommended the removal of loop fixtures, including the Magic Weekend, bringing the Challenge Cup final back to May and having increased focus on international breaks.
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They say that, the issue for the sport has been too much focus on the format and structure itself rather than the product and are promoting a renewed focus on fan engagement and matchday experiences.
In order to put these proposals into action, IMG say they have had consultation with the NRL and IRL about putting international rugby league at the forefront which should be helped by an aligned global calendar for the sport.
Outside of the format of the men’s competition, France, London and the women’s game identified as three areas of focus for growth.
However, the number of clubs outside of the UK would also be capped at two with a minimum number of domestic players in a match-day 17 among the participation criteria.
Those clubs must also subsidise incremental travel costs of UK clubs until a central contribution can otherwise cover them.
The aim by 2026 is to have a top flight with 14 teams and 14 teams in the Championship in 2024. League One remains flexible and there are no plans of merging clubs.
Simon Johnson, 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.”
The significance of the announcements was also stressed by Ken Davy, the chair of Super League (Europe).
“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,” said Davy.
“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.”
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Matt Dwyer, vice president of sports management at IMG, added: “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.”
Clubs have been invited to a follow-up meeting on October 13, at which they will have the opportunity to provide further feedback, and support will be sought to enable the rugby league executive and IMG to work on the detail of the recommendations.
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