“Preserving glamour clubs for vanity is not the answer”

James Gordon
Cougar Park

Picture by Tom Pearson/SWpix.com

The move to protect top clubs from relegation from Super League has been met with criticism.

IMG’s unveiling of their initial recommendations for rugby league has led to a flood of comment from people throughout the game.

Much of that has been cautiously positive, though Keighley co-owner Ryan O’Neill has hit out at some of the plans.

CONTEXT: IMG recommends return to licensing for Super League

As part of the proposed grading system, clubs with a so-called Category A grading would automatically retain their Super League place, with any remaining places taken by Category B clubs.

It means the removal of automatic promotion and relegation, though there would remain potential for clubs to swap divisions based on their grading.

In practice, the bigger clubs would effectively be ring-fenced in Super League meaning when clubs like Warrington have a poor season, as in 2022, they won’t face the threat of relegation.

Rugby league’s USP

O’Neill said in a statement: “I value the contribution IMG can bring to sport, they bring weight, talent, and value.

“However, on what I’ve seen, I have reservations they fully understand Rugby League.

“This sport is rooted in the north and in the communities, this is the Rugby League USP. These are the foundations to build on, be proud of, and embraced to organically expand.

“Expand yes but expand with demand.

“There is a huge opportunity to engage with people, to entertain people, to create a sport that is dynamic.

“Rugby League has failed over the last two decades because it has tried to manufacture a celebrity and glamour that is not authentic.

“Expansion, favouritism, flexible rules for one, but not the other. This has to stop.

“The IMG initial proposals to me seem to just be a continuance of the same mistakes. Preserving the clubs with the bigger names for vanity is not the answer.”

O’Neill also suggested that there should be two-up two-down promotion and relegation in all divisions each year.

Keighley will return to the Championship next season after an eight-year absence.

As part of IMG’s plans, the status quo would be retained for next season meaning the Cougars would get a shot at earning automatic promotion to Super League next season.

The Cougars were cruelly left out of the original Super League in 1996 at the peak of Cougarmania having won the Second Division in 1995.