How the Challenge Cup will be radically changed by IMG as hints at licencing criteria revealed

It’s been a big week for rugby league at all levels with IMG presenting their recommendations to Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs on Wednesday.

These recommendations will be explained further moving forward with another meeting set for October 13 but they aim at a new calendar and the end of traditional relegation in Super League.

The new calendar has been widely spoken about. It will see the Super League drop down to 22 games in a season, the lowest since the very first campaign in 1996.

It will also see the end of the Magic Weekend and a massive change to the Challenge Cup with the final returning to May – it’s traditional date – and the potential arrival of two-legged fixtures as IMG look to reinvigorate the competition.

Speaking on BBC 5 Live with Dave Woods, RFL Chairman Simon Johnson spoke about how the Challenge Cup is set to be revitalised: “The calendar has been re-imagined to create a number of exciting peaks throughout the year such as reinvigorating the Challenge Cup and moving the final back to May and creating narrative opportunities throughout the season.

“There are all sorts of reasons they don’t want to go forward with the Magic Weekend at the moment but one of those is that it has limited the Challenge Cup. One of the things they’re trying to do here is reinvigorate the Challenge Cup.

“One of the proposals is that at Round Six when Super League teams enter the competition will be a home and away two-legged fixture to provide more interest and involvement with the final taking place in May.”

The calendar change is just the tip of the iceberg with a lot of focus being on the change with relegation. However, Johnson believes this should make: “the top tier as vibrant and competitive as it possibly can be.”

He also noted that it should not stop movement between the divisions providing a brief description of what the criteria will be for a Category A club – a club guaranteed a place in Super League: “There will be movement between the divisions because these criteria will be open and valid and transparent and clear. They’re designed to create sustainability for our clubs and be reviewed on an annual basis.”

Meanwhile, Matt Dwyer, vice-president of sports management at IMG, spoke about this new system say there “are some critical differences” between it and licencing.

He went on to say: “We’re not saying, here are the 12 Super League clubs we’re saying here are the criteria for a category A club, but how many clubs are going to make that yet isn’t clear but my suggestion would be that it isn’t going to be enough to fill the league so we will need this period of transition.

“This is the criteria we need to grow this sport. We’re not trying to create the structure of the league.”

You can listen to the full podcast here.

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