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Breaking down the wider ramifications of IMG’s proposed end to traditional promotion and relegation

Since the official release of IMG’s recommendations to Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs, the talk has been dominated by one of the main changes proposed.

This is the end to traditional relegation and promotion which for the majority of Super League history has dominated the structure.

There was a brief detour to licensing which began in 2009 with Crusaders and Salford being added to the competition to make it a 14-team league.

Then in 2012, Crusaders lost their licence with Widnes replacing them in the league. This came to an end in 2014 when Bradford and London were relegated and the Super 8s were introduced from 2015 to 2018.

2019 saw the end to this radical structure, but not the end of relegation with the bottom club being relegated every season except for in 2020 when Toronto left the club due to complications exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, things could be about to change as IMG make their recommendations which would see the return of licensing.

Category A teams would be guaranteed a place in the league whilst Category B teams could be included if there is space in the league.

Otherwise, Category B teams will be included in the two lower tiers alongside Category C teams were relegation will persist in the traditional sense.

Nonetheless, in a departure from the original licensing structure these licences will be assessed annually.

This means that unlike the last time licensing was in place, a team’s Super League status wouldn’t be guaranteed for three seasons but could only be secure for one season especially if a Category A team forms in the lower tiers with a Category B team in Super League.

Though there is set to be 12 teams in Super League until 2025, if there are more than 12 Category A teams then the league will grow.

In the past licensing saw 14 teams in Super League and that is not off the table this time around but there doesn’t seem to be a limit on the number of teams who could be in Category A and subsequently in Super League so, all being well, we could see the top tier grow and grow.

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