Clubs will need Women’s Super League team to get A licence in IMG proposals

James Gordon
2023 Women's Super League Leeds Rhinos News Images

Photo: Craig Thomas/News Images

Clubs will need to have a Women’s Super League team to gain a category A licence under the new IMG proposals.

Licensing is due to return in time for the 2025 season, with a category A licence guaranteeing a clubs berth in Super League and meaning they cannot be relegated.

This is all part of sports marketing giant IMG’s ‘re-imagining rugby league’ proposals, which were first heard last year.

IMG were brought in by the RFL and Super League on a 12-year deal to shake up the sport.

As well as the women’s team, running a Physical Disability (PDRL), Learning Disability (LDSL) and wheelchair team will also likely form part of the criteria.

Who is running a Women’s Super League team?

At present, there are 12 teams in the Women’s Super League, split in to two groups of six.

At the end of this season, it is to be reduced to eight teams – with the winners of group two and the play-off champions earning promotion to join the six teams in group one from this year’s Women’s Super League.

The six clubs guaranteed to be in the Women’s Super League in 2024 are Huddersfield, Leeds, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan and York.

Barrow, Bradford, Castleford, Featherstone, Leigh and Salford will battle it out to earn the final two spots.

Leigh Leopards recently took over the Leigh Miners women’s team, enabling them to step up from the RFL Championship.

Both Hull clubs and Widnes currently operate clubs in the Championship, alongside the likes of Oulton Raidettes, Stanningley and Dewsbury Moor.

Sheffield, Swinton, Halifax and Rochdale were among the clubs running women’s teams in League 1 last season. Fixtures for both the women’s Championship and League 1 are yet to be confirmed for 2023.

London Broncos and Cardiff Demons participate in the Women’s Super League South, and both have entered this season’s Challenge Cup.

The women’s Challenge Cup has a round robin format in the initial stage, with the 16 teams having been split in to four groups of four.

Licensing detail and criteria still unconfirmed

Although public reaction to the initial IMG recommendations has been generally positive amongst clubs, they are privately getting anxious at the lack of detail being provided.

The plan is for the new look licensing system to come in to place for the 2025 season, and while that still feels like a long way away, it’s only a year or so until clubs will need to start planning their squads for that campaign.

If the women’s team requirement is confirmed, then it will mean only eight category A licenses will be possible for the 2025 season.

That would leave at least four spaces for so-called category B clubs.

It is understood that the category B clubs will be ranked in order as B1, B2, B3 etc, to take up the remaining slots in Super League.

Clubs are still waiting for assurances over the impact on-field performance will have on the order of the category B ranking.

Given the uncertainty over central funding with the expiry of the existing TV deal at the end of this year, more details on the way forward are needed.

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