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Five clubs who will be in Super League by 2028 under IMG model

Super League could look very different in the coming years. Under the new IMG criteria, which will come into force into 2025, promotion and relegation will no longer be decided on on-field performance alone.

As a result, a number of sides not currently in Super League could be introduced to the competition in the coming years. The criteria aim to take into account a number of off-the-field factors, with the aim of helping the game break into new areas by providing stability which promotion and relegation do not allow.

With this in mind, we have identified five clubs that could be Super League regulars by 2025. They do not all have the history of some of Super League’s more established sides. However, the future of the game may lie in these areas in the near future as the Rugby League landscape changes.

Toulouse Olympique

Super League

Credit: Imago Images

The entente cordiale between UK and French Rugby League clubs looks set to deepen in the near future, as Toulouse Olympique are almost certain to be Super League regulars. Near neighbours, the Catalans Dragons, have proven what it possible for French Rugby League with their consistent appearance near the top of Super League. Olympique will be keen to follow in their footsteps.

Toulouse were promoted to Super League for the 2022 season, and gave a good account of themselves by winning five games before succumbing to relegation at the end of the season. They came close to a return in 2023, however, they lost the Million Pound Game against London Broncos.

Toulouse Olympique score highly across all criteria and are currently the 10th highest-ranked team on the current IMG gradings, ahead of Wakefield Trinity, Leigh Leopards and Castleford Tigers. If the IMG scores stay as they are, Toulouse will be a Super League side in 2025. They will hope to become a permanent fixture in Super League from that point forward.

London Broncos

Hull FC

Credit: Imago Images

The London Broncos returned to Super League in 2024, however, due to the current nature of the IMG gradings, their stay is set to be short and sweet. Their current grading puts them down in 24 place, confirming their return to the Championship before this season even started.

Head coach, Mike Eccles, has confirmed the club intends to submit a proposal to the RFL and IMG to stay in Super League for 2025. There can be no doubt that the strongest version of Super League would contain a thriving London club.

On-field performance and, bizarrely, catchment area are the two biggest issues holding London’s score back. Returning to Super League will help improve their on-field score in the future, and the club is understood to be challenging their catchment area score.

With four more years to plan, it seems almost certain that the Broncos will be a fixture in Super League by 2028.

Newcastle Thunder

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Credit: Imago Images

Newcastle, as a city, is the golden goose which has never laid an egg for Rugby League. There have been numerous attempts to encourage a Super League team in the North East, including hosting Magic Weekend at St James’ Part for a number of years.

However, for a number of reasons, the sport has never properly taken root in Newcastle. However, there remains huge potential in the area. As a city, Newcastle is a great destination for travelling fans and there is a large target market.

Current League One side, Newcastle Thunder, have had a turbulent few years and threatened to close in the off-season prior to the 2024 season. However, the club has been saved and can now begin efforts to build towards Super League again. On the current IMG gradings, the club ranks just below York in 18th place.

2028 may be a step too far for the Thunder, given their current low league position, however, with the right investment, there is still hope that the city may lay the golden egg for Super League.

York Knights RLFC

York Knights

York Knights v Leigh Leopards Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com – 18/06/2023 – Rugby League – Betfred Challenge Cup Quarter Final – York Knights v Leigh Leopards – LNER Community Stadium, York, England – York celebrate Joe Brown s try against Leigh. York LNER Community Stadium England Copyright: x xSWpix.comxt/axPhotographyxHubxLtdxAllanxMcKenzie/SWpix.comx SWP-2100-0019

There has been a long desire in Rugby League to bring more city-based clubs to Super League, and the York Knights potentially provide a perfect growth opportunity. Rugby League has a long history in York, with the York Wasps joining the breakaway Northern Union in 1901. However, the sport has a more chequered recent past.

The current Knights club is ambitious though. They have a high-quality stadium, which holds around 8,000 fans and is situated in a perfect catchment area between the West Yorkshire and East Yorkshire clubs. Unlike some of the other potential growth targets, travel will be no issue for fans of most clubs. The York Valkyrie is also one of the biggest names in the women’s game.

On the current IMG grading, the club sits 17th between Newcastle and Widnes Vikings. Their low average attendance is an issue, as it their history of on-field performance. However, with time to grow and improve between now and 2028, York Knights are strong candidates to join Super League in the future.

Bradford Bulls

Bradford Bulls

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Bradford Bulls are one of the most decorated clubs in Super League and remain the only other club, aside from Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos and St Helens, to lift the Super League trophy. However, a financial meltdown in the mid-2000s saw the club relegated from the top flight in 2014 and they are yet to return.

According to the current IMG grading, The Bulls currently rank in 14th place, with a B grade. If the competition were to be extended to 14 teams tomorrow, they would just sneak into the top division with their current score.

However, their historic Odsal Stadium currently is a major negative, holding their score back. Bradford are currently sixth in the Championship table and have ambitions of pushing back towards the top of the Championship.

They possess a large and passionate fan base, and their rivalry with the Leeds Rhinos used to provide one of the biggest fixtures in Super League. With another few years to run until 2028, Bradford will be hopeful of obtaining a place in Super League in the near future, especially if the competition is expanded beyond the current 12 sides.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Bill friar

    May 30, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    Toulouse bring no amount of supporters to away games same as Catalan .They are being put in over teams that at least are well supported away. Also it is wrong that teams don,t need to try or win any matches knowing they won,t be relegated

    • Anonymous

      May 30, 2024 at 8:41 pm

      Spot on, Bill

      • Alan Holt

        June 1, 2024 at 11:50 pm

        Why have you omitted Halifax. This is club and district with an absolute commitment to Rugby League. The town is crying out for sporting success and is surely on the verge of having a successful team despite the current playing record the prospects are bright.

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