Featherstone Rovers “troubled” by IMG gradings

The first ever IMG grades have been revealed with Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors, St Helens, Catalans Dragons, Warrington Wolves, Hull KR and Hull FC all awarded Grade As.

Then 17 clubs have been awarded Grade B scores which sees the bottom of the Super League and the top of the Championship align.

Interestingly, the Championship’s best team for much of the season, Featherstone Rovers, only rank 15th.

They are behind Toulouse Olympique who rank 10th and Bradford Bulls who rank 14th.

This illustrates why the Rovers have been against this from the start and have reiterated their standing with IMG describing it as “troubling.”

They said:

“The Club would confirm that its IMG ranking is a Grade B and that we are ranked 15th out of the 36 Clubs. These are interim findings which will be reviewed in July when the final assessments for the 2025 season will be put in place.

“Our fans will recall that when the new model came into place we voted against the new arrangements, the main thrust of our disagreement at the time was as follows.

“Rather than being a stimulus for driving improvement within Clubs, it was a further strengthening of the glass ceiling that has protected some Super League Clubs for 25 years. The basic facts are that if you an existing member of the Super League top 12 you are protected in the scoring assessment on areas such as fandom, digital and attendances. So, as well as having an advantage of a broadcast distribution of 10 times more than the average Championship Club, there is also this in-built advantage that will protect the status quo and actually have the reverse effect on Clubs like ours in terms of investment to reach the top level.

“There are many elements of the criteria that are open for discussion and we don’t want to get drawn into digital screens and LED advertising but the issue of community is a critical one for us, where Clubs like ours which are at the heart of its community and have one of the best Community Foundations in the game are unable to score maximum points as our local authority area is also shared by Wakefield and Castleford. It’s interesting to note that in a city the size of Toulouse, where they can deliver an attendance of circa 3,000 for a million pound game that because of its geographic location it scores maximum marks in this area. The original IMG principles made it very clear that the assessments would be based upon the here and now not the future promises of potential and this is an issue that urgently needs looking at before the final assessments are made.

“One troubling aspect of the scoring assessment is how these numbers are actually audited. There are two important issues for us here; We have always asked for independence from the RFL on these matters particularly in the areas of fandom.

“The leaders of the game including key partners such as IMG should urgently refocus its attentions on the marketing of the game rather than waste any more time on looking at structures and scoring systems and this radical change in approach needs to be in place before the final plans for Super League are addressed later this year.

“The excitement and jeopardy of our game is driven by what happens on the pitch as has been admirably shown by London Broncos in their run to Super League, we have been promised that this would be at the forefront of the strategy under IMG, we remain unconvinced!

“Today we are being asked whether we should amalgamate the Championship with League 1, we don’t know what our financial distributions will be for next year, whether there will be a Grand Final, the format of the 1895 Cup and where it will be played, whether or not a broadcast deal is in place for 24 for the Championship, and we are being lectured on standards within the game, the current leadership of our game and IMG needs to urgently get a grip of the direction of travel because at the present time, our view is that we are on a downward spiral which needs to be urgently addressed.”