Ex-Leeds Rhinos man Stevie Ward has interesting say on IMG proposals looking at rugby union examples and pandemic impact

Former Leeds Rhinos skipper Stevie Ward is one of the best talkers in rugby league even after his premature retirement due to concussion.

Of course, the main topic he speaks about is concussion and the need to be smart about how we deal with head injuries in the sport after concussion spelt the end of his career due to the symptoms he still suffers from today.

However, at an event with William Hill recently in which he spoke to Premier Sports rugby league present Emma Louise Jones about the IMG proposals.

These proposals could spell the end of normal relegation in Super League with a licencing system taking over instead should clubs agree with the recommendations.

Ward had an interesting take on this. He believes that first and foremost clubs need to be a success off the field to help the product on the field: “There’s been a lot of anticipation around it for a while and I think it’s probably a good thing to be honest.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction. In terms of grading, licencing, whatever you want to call it, I think it gives opportunities to teams to give the full experience to fans, to players.

“There’s a little bit of concern for the competition in terms of relegation but I think we want to get teams off the field firing and not worrying about going down so they can make decisions as a business where they can go forward and they don’t have to be fearful of taking those risks as a business.”

One of the reasons for this is the impact of the pandemic on clubs which has shown how fragile things off the field can be and turned to two rugby union examples too.

He said: “It’s massive, especially after the pandemic we’ve seen how rocky things can get. We’ve seen teams struggle to perform and make sense of what’s going on. We’ve seen un rugby union with Worcester and Wasps going into administration, rugby league is not exclusive to that so getting more confidence off the field as a business is only going to help on the field.”

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