The futures of clubs like Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, the rest of Super League as well as the wider rugby league world in this country is in the hands of IMG.
This is because they are set to usher in a new era in British rugby league.
Much like the licencing system that was introduced on the eve of 2009 and ran until 2014, IMG are set to award grades to every team which will determine those in Super League and those not.
A Grade A will guarantee a side’s place in Super League whilst a high Grade B gives clubs a good chance at joining the top teams in Super League.
But how are these grades determined? Well on field success is a factor as you would expect but it also prompts clubs to focus on off field development.
This includes elements like Fandom, Finances, Stadium and Catchment.
This is why we have seen clubs like Wakefield Trinity work hard to redevelop the stadium.
The criteria is as follows:
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.
Serious About Rugby League can confirm that the first ever IMG grades will be released this week. This comes after they were delayed last week.
These grades are being referred to as “dummy grades.” This is because they will not determine Super League positions for 2024. But instead they will be used as a guide to clubs as to what needs to be improved ahead of 2024 and determining Super League positions in 2025.