“Preserving glamour clubs for vanity is not the answer”

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.

About James Gordon 7231 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.


  1. Who’s gonna take odds that St Helen’s, Wigan, Leeds and Warrington, oh and we can’t leave out the Aussies, err, sorry the Frogs,will be given Grade A from the get go? Everyone else will be left appealing and scrambling.
    Same old same old.
    Total crap!

    • Fairly typical responses from the sort of ” fans ” of the sport that’ve prevented any real progress for the last 25 or so years. Sadly , they can’t see beyond the end of their noses. Fact of it is that , unless there is some radical change – one that does ” manufacture some celebrity and glamour ” in the game , there won’t be a professional game in the future . Rugby league is slowly dying and it’s because it can’t compete any longer for the average person’s attention . If the game’s to survive and prosper , we’ve got to get away from the dilapidated stadiums , the teams that get crowds of 3/4/5000 and the ” flat cap/whippet” image ; we’ve got to present ourselves as a fast , exciting , truly-international game that gives the fans what they seek both at the grounds and on TV . Sadly , I can’t see it happening as the inertia is too great .

      • The sport absolutely needs to manufacture celebrity and glamour – the kind it briefly had when people like Hanley and Offiah were household names. The problem is that the people trying to do it for the last 20 years were a bunch of amateurs who confused gimmicks with long-term brand building. Let’s hope the professionals make the difference – I’m hopeful they will.

  2. People that advocate taking the game out of the reach of the working class or if you prefer “Flat cap/whippet” image are arrogant and selfish. If that’s IMG proposal then the game will most certainly die. The Soccer game preserves promotion and relegation, so Rugby League should do the same with Divisions of equal numbers on a home and away basis only WITH NO IDIOTIC LOOP FIXTURES.

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