Clubs vote in favour of IMG proposals

James Gordon
Championship rugby balls Batley Bulldogs SWpix

Photo: John Clifton/SWpix

Clubs have voted in favour of IMG’s proposals to implement a new grading model to professional rugby league, the RFL has announced.

A special meeting was held at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield, where the RFL Council voted for the proposals.

The RFL Council comprised of the UK clubs in Super League, Championship and League 1, as well as seven representatives from the Community game and West Wales Raiders, who withdrew from League 1 on the eve of the season.

One Super League club abstained from voting, as did one club from each of the Championship and League 1.

Four Championship clubs and three League One clubs voted against the proposals, while the seven community representatives all voted in favour.

Under the weighting system for Council votes which ensures an equal weight for Super League clubs on the one hand, and Championship / League One on the other, there was an 86%-14% result.

Simon Johnson, the Chair of the Rugby Football League and a Board member of Rugby League Commercial, said: This has been a highly significant day for the sport and I am proud of the vote of the Council today.

“Our clubs were unanimous in supporting the 12-year strategic partnership with IMG when it was proposed in 2022, and have now given strong support for the Club Grading recommendation which is crucial in allowing the sport to grow and fulfil its potential – on the domestic and international stage. 

“In terms of Club Grading, it is important to stress again that there will be no changes to the existing arrangements for promotion and relegation this season. 

“In the closing stages of the season this autumn, illustrative gradings for all clubs will be published, providing all with a clear idea of where they stand, with 12 months until the gradings are updated to determine membership of the top tier competition in 2025. We will also continue to work with clubs to develop the Minimum Standards that will sit alongside the Grading Criteria and continue to consult with Council.

“It is also important to reinforce that this outcome, whilst being crucial to the future growth of the sport, is only the first step. Work is currently underway to further develop the domestic calendar for 2024, deliver certainty to the international calendar and continue the digital transformation within Rugby League that will continue to lay the foundations for a greater return from the sport’s assets in the future.”

Clubs will now have to work towards satisfying the five pillars of the grading criteria to determine their place in the pyramid for the 2025 season.

It is thought that only a handful of clubs will achieve a Grade A, with the remainder of Super League to be made up of Grade B category clubs.

The dummy run at the end of this year will likely create further talking points and controversy, as the finer details of the grading come to the fore.

Matt Dwyer, Vice President of Sport Management, IMG Media, added: “We greatly appreciate all the clubs’ input and support during this process. While there is naturally no one set of recommendations that will suit everyone, we strongly believe that club grading, as part of the wider Reimagining Rugby League strategy, is essential to ensure sustainable growth of the game as a whole, and are pleased to see that such a strong majority of clubs agree.”