Yesterday, IMG presented their recommendations to Super League, Champions and League 1 clubs.
These were headlined by the end of traditional promotion and relegation in favour of the return of licencing.
The recommendations were as follows:
A re-positioned calendar which optimises flow, narrative and engagement, incorporating regular ‘peaks’ of interest and a compelling season climax.
A calendar aligned with the global game to facilitate an international window in October and incorporate a mid-season international.
Participation in the top tier to be based on a range of on and off field measures, delivered through a club grading system with the aim of supporting financial sustainability and encouraging investment into clubs. ‘Category A’ clubs will be guaranteed participation in the top tier whilst ‘Category B’ clubs will be re-assessed annually with the highest-ranking clubs occupying the remaining slots in the top tier.
Promotion and relegation will continue on the field of play between the second and third tiers with tier two increasingly filled with strong Category B Clubs.
An expansion strategy to be developed that targets and supports the growth of the Women’s and Girls’ game, and also growth in new markets.
Participation of clubs outside of the UK to be capped and with additional standards to support domestic growth.
Operations to be centralised where this can maximise efficiencies and drive incremental revenue (e.g. ticketing and digital infrastructure).
A new brand strategy to be introduced and aligned with the above commercial strategy.
These recommendations will effect clubs at all levels but the side at the very top of the pyramid has had it’s say.
One team once at the top of the pyramid but now in the Championship, Bradford, have had their say emphasising their ambitions regarding stadium and fan base as they shoot for a strong licence.
The club is expecting positive news on their bid to redevelop the ground and the surrounding area as they look to “grasp” the opportunity.
Bradford Bulls’ Chief Executive Officer Jason Hirst has made the following statement on the Bulls’ website:
“IMG’s proposals are both interesting and much needed if our great sport is to reflect, grow and finally reach its full potential. To do that, it needs be bold, embrace change and attract new spectators and investment. The central recommendation is that if a club is good enough, then there will be room at the elite level of Super League, for it. We have all been put on notice that the opportunity is there for everyone to grasp.
“While there is much detail still be fleshed out, it is already clear that facilities will be a key criteria when evaluating a club’s potential. The strength of level of club support will be another key consideration.
“With regards to the stadium, the club eagerly look forward to hopefully positive news on the recently announced Levelling Up Bid, to redevelop Odsal stadium and the surrounding land. The club, once again, thank the Bradford Metropolitan District Council for their vision and support in their attempts to deliver a community stadium, that our fans and the wider district of Bradford undoubtedly deserve.
“In relation to the club’s support base, we are clear that if we can get it right on and off the field, the support for our great club can be the equal of any other in the professional ranks. As a long-standing supporter, through thick and thin, I believe now is the time to draw a line in the sand and come together as one united family of Bradford supporters and show the rugby league world that we can still be a force in the sport. We all know what we are capable of and the IMG recommendations offer a clear, time lined potential pathway back into Super League.
“Clearly, financial resources for clubs will be another crucial issue and while we remain a volunteer led and partially volunteer run organisation for the moment, please be under no illusions that we all recognise that there is no one bigger than the club. If there are people better equipped, interested and potentially willing to get involved in the running and ownership of the club, I’d gladly welcome the opportunity to sit and discuss those possibilities.
“In the meantime, the club’s dedicated team of staff and volunteers will continue to work alongside our coaching and playing team to bring year on year improvement, to our great club, under the more traditional promotion and relegation format.”