IMG gradings Q&A: Possible 14-team Super League, London Broncos future, how often grades will be reviewed

Aaron Bower
Super League ball IMG Alamy

Love Rugby League journalist Aaron Bower has answered your questions about the IMG gradings.

@KyRobbo: Is there any physical way London stay in Super League in 2025?

This felt like the only place to start given how it was the big news of the day.

The short answer, I’d wager from what I understand and what I’ve asked, is no.

Realistically, there’s no way London are making up four points teams like Wakefield, Leigh, Toulouse, Bradford and Castleford. I suspect this will be a one-year sojourn back in Super League before they’re relegated back to the Championship.

It does leave me intrigued as to how the Broncos will approach the season.

Bank the extra revenue and central funding and use it for a brighter future, or have a real go at ruffling some feathers?

Doing some rudimentary mathematics, even winning Super League and the Challenge Cup wouldn’t secure enough points to keep London afloat. They are, I’m afraid to say, not going to be in Super League in 2025.

MORE: London Broncos told to improve in ‘all categories’ by IMG after receiving supremely low grading

@Craigmann1: How can Newcastle be graded B and 18th place yet folded last week?

Well: Newcastle haven’t technically and formally folded yet.

The talk up there is that they’re exploring ways to get to the start line in League 1 in 2024 – or whatever format League 1 ends up representing, anyway.

So they’re still an active member club, which is why they’re still in the rankings and London Skolars, who’ve formally pulled out, are not.

I’m actually told there’s a reasonable chance Newcastle could survive yet.

For what it’s worth, there is great work being done in laying some foundations in Newcastle by people like Jordan Robinson, and their community engagement is a big reason why they scored well.

With a squad of local talent next year they may struggle on the field short-term, but long-term they could yet prosper, I hope.

@neilscarlett: Given London’s grading, could you ask at what date these gradings were established/fixed? Was it prior to play-offs?

Castleford Tigers and London Broncos IMG Alamy

The gradings were only finalised upon the conclusion of all domestic club rugby.

So in the case of London, their league position from this season and the bonus points for their Championship Grand Final win are included.

Obviously, many metrics like finance and digital can be calculated towards the season’s end, but the whole thing was only completely rubber-stamped after all rugby was completed.

@Andyweath: Is it confirmed that Super League 2025 will consist of 12 teams or could this increase given the issues with League 1, plus the fact we have teams ranked 9 to 14 within a small margin?

It’s not confirmed formally, but it’s almost certain.

I don’t think League One’s issues has any bearing on the possible growth of Super League: it’s more the fact there are more Grade A clubs than originally expected.

Matt Dwyer admitted on Wednesday that the fact there are seven clubs in the top bracket accelerates the possibility of Super League going to 14 in the future: but that won’t be 2025.

MORE: Super League could expand to 14 teams sooner than originally expected, admits IMG chief

@pinder1993: Are the gradings subject to changes going forwards like can clubs work on and improve theirs to secure a higher grade?

Absolutely – that’s the whole underpinning part of the system, that clubs have scope to improve.

It’s also why they were given a dummy-run and a provisional grade today, so that they can see what they can do better over the forthcoming 12 months, and every year after that.

Clubs can move up through the grades: and they can drop down them, too – though that’s far less likely.

@PyrahSamuel: Bradford Bulls Super League 2025 realistic?

I’d say no at this moment in time.

It does feel like in terms of areas for short-term growth on their grading score, Bradford might have hit a bit of a ceiling.

Obviously their league position can improve – their fifth-placed finish in the 2021 Championship will come off next year’s grading, so if they better that in 2024, that’s a start.

But the things that have got them this far such as their well-respected foundation work, their socials and crowd figures don’t have much scope to improve further short-term.

I think Bradford are exactly where many thought they’d be: one of the best-graded clubs outside Super League and if they continue to improve, or Super League expands, they’re at the front of the queue. But in 2025, I’d expect to see them in the Championship.

@Paulhemin: So when exactly are the grades released for the 2025 season? Is it the same time next year? Because it seems a bit late for a clubs planning purposes?

@philiphiggins: Do we know what timings will be for the announcements for the 2025 Super League clubs? If this system was live for 2024 we wouldn’t know who was in Super League until an even later point than with promotion and relegation, and given Castleford’s statement probably still wouldn’t know now!

Coupled both of these together as they’re broadly similar. The announcements won’t come until after the Grand Finals in both the Championship and Super League have taken place.

So as is pointed out in the tweet, we won’t know who takes the 12 places in Super League 2025 for certain until October next year.

However, most clubs will likely have an idea given how many of the five pillars can be determined and finalised before the Grand Finals take place.

Clubs have until the end of the regular season to submit all their other data relating to finances, fandom, attendance and other aspects. So internally, many will have a fair idea before the dust settles and the public find out.

@robtickle1: Will a full breakdown of the score be released?

That, I’m told, is at the discretion of each and every club. You’ll have seen online already that some clubs have opted to share their breakdown.

Others haven’t, and both the RFL and IMG have given clubs permission to do so if they want. So it’s down to your individual club to decide what they want to do.

I’ve asked some and they’ve said they’re planning to; I’ve asked others and they’ve said they probably won’t. So it’s a club-by-club decision.

@nliptrot: Does stadium ownership count to the grading, if so does Wigan’s count now it’s owned by Mike Danson, or not as he only takes over the rugby club officially in November.

It’s not necessarily ownership that counts, more primacy of tenure – but that should work in Wigan’s favour given how their new owner, Mike Danson, owns the DW Stadium.

When his takeover goes through, Wigan will likely get another 0.25 points for primacy of tenure.

They haven’t at the minute because under the provisional gradings, Wigan were assessed under their former ownership of Ian Lenagan. Moving forwards, they’ll be owned by Danson and get the bonus 0.25.

@gaz1331: How often are the grades going to be reviewed?

Annually. A simple one to finish! Everyone’s scores will be assessed around this time every year, and new gradings published.

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