Featherstone have become the first club who voted against IMG’s proposals to introduce a grading system to Super League to speak out following the announcement.
The Flatcappers were one of seven clubs to vote no when it was put to the Rugby League Council at a special meeting in Huddersfield on Wednesday.
They could arguably be seen as the club with most to lose by the removal of automatic promotion and relegation, as they currently sit top of the Championship, although the new system doesn’t come in to force until 2025 anyway.
But they have now revealed that they would have voted in favour of the proposals, if one detail had been corrected.
Making it ‘absolutely clear’
In a statement, the Featherstone board said: “Whilst the board is largely in agreement with the measures presented by IMG and the RFL, there remained a question about the ability for Category B teams to be promoted into Super League from the Championship when there are category B Clubs remaining in Super League.
“We firmly believe that further dialogue needs to take place on this fundamental issue. We were clearly told during the consultation period that a Category B club would always replace another Category B should a promotion/relegation situation arise, this position has changed in further variations of the proposals.
“Other than this specific detail, the board feels that IMG present the best hope for the sport’s future, and the leadership that the sport so desperately needs.
“We have worked hard to make this club the best possible version of itself. As a club where distribution contributes to only 10% of our turnover, we are well versed in growing and operating a successful business and see this as the model that should be adopted by clubs across the sport.
“We have increased investment in facilities, diversified our income streams, developed grass roots development programs, a Womens Super League team and pathway, and made a commitment to Learning Disability Rugby League and much more. We believe that we stand in good stead with the IMG grading criteria and will continue to work hard to improve.
“We want to be absolutely clear that had the point concerning promotion and relegation for Category B clubs been addressed, we would have voted in favour of the proposals.”
The removal of automatic promotion and relegation has arguably been the biggest headline grabber of the planned changes, which have come about as part of the RFL’s 12-year strategy agreement with IMG, the global sports marketing company.
Earlier this week, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said that the chances would be ‘very remote’ that a team that won the Championship Grand Final would be denied promotion.