Ralph Rimmer confirms no structure changes for 2023 season

James Gordon
Ralph Rimmer

Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer says there will be no structure changes for the 2023 season as they await recommendations from new partners IMG.

Global marketing company IMG were announced as strategic partners to the RFL and Super League recently on a 12-year deal, to help restructure and re-imagine the sport.

The three-division structure, with promotion and relegation, will remain intact for next season, but key dates won’t be decided until IMG completes its initial fact-finding exercise.

Rimmer told PA: “There will be no changes for 2023. There might be some changes in transition at the end of 2023 but we’ll see how that comes together.

“We’ll do lots of different permutations while we await the outcome of IMG’s consultations.”

The appointment of IMG came as a result of re-alignment talks between the RFL and Super League, which has led to the creation of a third body to handle the sport’s commercial interests.

With the current TV deal with Sky due to run out at the end of 2023, changes are expected to be made at the end of next season.

The long-speculated change to two divisions of 10 is thought to still be on the table.

Complicated work

Clubs currently outside of Super League are anxiously targeting high finishes in 2023 so they don’t become victims of an anticipated cull to the professional game.

There has been little indication yet as to what IMG’s recommendations might be, though they are beginning to hold consultations with stakeholders, including a session with the media later this month.

IMG are not being paid for their work, but will instead be incentivised by taking a share of any profits generated through fresh initiatives.

Rimmer aded: “There are lots of different elements to the project. Lots of people are focusing on what the competition structure might look like but this is about them bringing resource and expertise to help promote ourselves and put the sport on different platforms going forward.

“It’s a complicated piece of work. First of all we had to realign the governance because whoever came in to support us needed to know they could influence what was going on.

“Beyond that we wanted somebody who could help drive change. We wanted expertise from outside the world of rugby league and we’ve got that. Nevertheless, their rugby league knowledge is pretty strong.

“They are doing some work in the background about how we might promote the game and what the competition structure might look like from 2024 onwards but we need to get the ball rolling before that.

“So hopefully we’ll create some sort of tsunami that will take us through to 2024 and beyond.”

Rimmer also emphasised the long-term nature of the deal with IMG should provide some stability for rugby league, which has constantly chopped and changed its structure over the past decade or so.

Licensing was introduced in 2008 and then phased out in 2014, to be replaced by the much-maligned Super 8s format.

The Super 8s format was ditched in favour of Super League’s traditional one-up/one-down promotion and relegation format from the start of 2019.

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