The seven clubs that voted against IMG proposals

James Gordon
Keighley Cougars, SWPix

Picture by Olly Hassell/

A total of seven clubs voted against the IMG proposals to introduce a grading system to rugby league, which was passed with an overwhelming majority of 86%.

Clubs met at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield on Wednesday to have their say on the plans, put together by the RFL’s 12-year strategic growth partner, the global sports marketing brand IMG.

Dissent had been building towards the vote, which had been marked in the calendar last month when further details had been presented to clubs.

Last year, when IMG first revealed the outline of their plans only one club – Keighley – voted against it.

The finer detail, particularly the removal of automatic promotion and relegation, prompted others to turn against it.

In the Championship, as expected, Keighley and Batley voted against the proposals. Batley chairman Kevin Nicholas had previously spoke out about how the grading system was weighted heavily in favour of Super League clubs, while the Cougars have been on a one-club crusade to discredit their proposals.

That has included blasting them as creating a ‘cartel’, ‘sport by spreadsheet’ and even taking aim at Catalans, arguably the sport’s finest expansion success story.

They were joined by current Championship league leaders Featherstone, whose chairman Mark Campbell has previously questioned the proposals on social media.

Barrow also voted against the proposals, while Whitehaven abstained as they were absent from the meeting.

League One club Hunslet had announced their decision to vote against following a consultation with fans on Tuesday evening, and they were joined by current League One leaders Dewsbury.

West Wales Raiders, who withdrew from League One but retained a vote due to still being RFL Council Members, were also reported to have not voted in favour.

One club from each of the three professional leagues abstained from voting, with Salford believed to have been the Super League club.

That means 10 of the Super League clubs voted in favour, with Catalans not permitted a vote due to them not being RFL Council Members.

Eight of the 13 English Championship clubs voted in favour, with Toulouse not permitted a vote either. Seven of the 11 League One clubs voted in favour, with one abstention.

So a total of 25 clubs voted in favour of the proposals, with the seven community representative votes also in favour. Taking the weighted voting in to consideration, that meant an overwhelming majority of 86% backed the plans for change.

RFL chairman Simon Johnson said: “Our clubs were unanimous in supporting the 12-year strategic partnership with IMG when it was proposed in 2022, and have now given strong support for the Club Grading recommendation which is crucial in allowing the sport to grow and fulfil its potential.”

MORE: Clubs vote in favour of IMG proposals