Only club to vote against IMG proposals compares to ‘cartel’ European Super League

James Gordon
Super League

The only club to vote against IMG’s recent recommendations to re-imagine rugby league has compared the fall-out to the failed European Super League project in football.

Keighley were the only RFL member club to vote against the proposals, which would give immunity from relegation to elite – so-called Category A – clubs.

Championship clubs Batley and Dewsbury are reported to have abstained from the vote, but the message was otherwise overwhelmingly positive amongst the 42 RFL members.

An RFL statement said: “At a meeting of the Rugby League Council arranged for further discussions of the Reimagining Rugby League recommendations presented to the sport by IMG last month, the RFL members today gave strong support to the principles and direction of the recommendations.

“The sport’s executive will now work with IMG to scope out the details of the recommendations.  This will involve appropriate consultation with clubs and other stakeholders.

“This work will sit alongside other workstreams to maximise the commercial potential of the sport and build deeper relationships with fans and new audiences.”

MORE: IMG recommends return to licensing for Super League

Scrapping relegation is anti-sport

Despite being the only opponent so far, Keighley have come out fighting with another strongly-worded statement against the plans.

Chief executive Ryan O’Neill has compared it to the move last year that saw some of the biggest football clubs in Europe come together to create a pan-European league competition only for invited teams.

It collapsed after significant criticism from fans, governing bodies and politicians.

O’Neill says that IMG’s proposals to protect rugby league’s elite clubs is the very same principle that was widely berated when it was tried to be implemented in football.

In a statement, he said: “To create a top division with elite clubs who can never face relegation is only in the self interests of those involved.

“It is unfair, it is anti-competition, and it isn’t sport.

“The Cougars are currently standing alone against the proposals, but we believe in our values and in the long term interests of our sport.

“The vote today was in favour of the equivalent of the failed European Super League in football.

“This was rejected at the highest level, with the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson commiting to legislate against it, citing a cartel and it being ‘against the basic principles of competition.’

“Keighley Cougars are committed to equality for all.”

As part of the recommendations, Category A clubs would be guaranteed their place in Super League, leaving Category B clubs fighting for the remaining places.

Clubs would be assessed annually by the as-yet underdetermined on and off-field criteria to earn their category.

Other plans include scrapping Magic Weekend and bringing the Challenge Cup final back to May.

MORE: IMG on relegation, international focus and scrapping Magic Weekend