Once upon a time Bradford Bulls were battling against the likes Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and St Helens for Super League trophies.
After winning the World Club Challenge in 2006, the Bulls haven’t won another trophy and were relegated in 2014.
A whisker away from promotion in 2015, that has been the closest they have come to being promoted since 2014 but that could be about to change.
The Bulls are in excellent form and will go to Toulouse Olympique believing they can stun the French side and book their place in a final likely against Featherstone Rovers or oddly against the side also relegated in 2014 London Broncos who are also in red hot form.
The Bulls have some great former Super League stars in their squad and some great experience and leadership which will certainly help them.
But on a different note, fans should be routing for the Bulls. Super League needs clubs as big as the Bulls and needs a return of the Leeds-Bradford rivalry as soon as possible.
If not this year, this will be in the hands of IMG and their grading system.
Based on a combination of on and off-field variables, the proposed grading criteria are designed to collectively increase clubs’ fanbases, diversify revenues, drive investment into clubs and the sport in a sustainable manner, run clubs in a best-in-class way and ensure strong governance is in place.
The recommended grading criteria cover five areas, with each element contributing to a percentage of the overall weighting, including:
Fandom (25%): encouraging clubs to attract more fans in stadia, at home and digitally, and to improve fan engagement, contributing to both club and central revenues.
Performance (25%): incentivising clubs to perform on the field and drive fan awareness and engagement. Teams will be ranked between 1 and 36 based on where they finish in the leagues for the previous three seasons. Bonus points will be awarded to teams who win league and cup competitions in the previous season.
Finances (25%): reflecting the success of fan engagement and business performance and rewarding sustainable investment, as well as diversified revenue streams and sound financial management.
Stadium (15%): based on a number of factors, including facilities and utilisation, which add value to the fan and broadcast or digital viewer experience, and match or exceed competition from other sports and events.
Catchment (10%): based on area population and the number of clubs in the area, with a view to maximising growth of the sport in the largest markets to generate new fan bases and incentivise investment.
Frank Slevin, the Chair of RL Commercial, said: “After the overwhelming support provided by clubs to the Reimagining Rugby League recommendations when they were first presented last September, the clubs have now been provided with full details of the grading process which is an important part of those proposals. An immense amount of work has been done by IMG, as part of their long-term strategic partnership with Rugby League, to produce a blueprint which breaks new ground for British sport.
“It is important the clubs now have time to consider the proposals, and to provide feedback, in a series of meetings that have been arranged between now and the Special General Meeting of clubs next month,” he continued.
“Our goal with the proposed criteria was to establish an objective, easily measurable and reliable framework that will drive long-term, sustainable growth for individual clubs and the sport as a whole,” added Matt Dwyer, Vice President of Sport Management, IMG Media. “We, RL Commercial and the RFL believe improvement in each of these areas is possible for all clubs over time and is vital to transforming and future-proofing Rugby League. Ultimately, we want to be in position down the line where the top tier league is full of Category A clubs and being expanded.”