Today, the Rugby League pyramid found out their provisional IMG gradings.
Each club within the top three leagues was given either an A, B or C grade under the new IMG points system, which scores teams on five categories. These are: fandom (max score of 5 points or 25% of grade), on-field performance (max score of 5 points or 25% of grade), finances (max score of 4.5 points or 22.5% of grade), stadium (max score of 3 points or 15% of grade) and community (max score of 2.5 points or 12.5% of grade).
Some clubs got exactly what they would have hoped for, some clubs performed better than they probably expected and then some clubs find themselves needing to improve to get the points they want. Here are our winners and losers from the first ever IMG grading.
It’s no surprise that Leeds Rhinos have been awarded an A grade, but they are a winner as they come in as the highest ranked club in Rugby League. The Rhinos are the model that most clubs should follow, they have grown each area of the club organically which has helped steer them to the top of the IMG gradings. Whilst the on-pitch display of the men’s team was below par in 2023, the Women’s side reached both major finals this season and the Wheelchair team reached the Grand Final and they have a thriving academy. They also have most things right off-filed, a great, modern stadium, a huge fanbase and impressive finances.
The Rhinos are ‘officially’ the biggest club in Rugby League, according to IMG points anyway, so they are definitely a winner today.
The Robins have probably performed better than expected with their IMG grade this morning, as they have been awarded an A grade. Rovers are also a good way to look at ways to grow a club. They have a passionate fanbase which pack out Craven Park every week, and the ground itself is a great day out with Craven Street bustling with people before kick-off. Their on-field performance this season has also massively boosted their grade, reaching a Challenge Cup Final and making it to the semi-final in Super League. The Robins have grown organically since the heartbreak of 2017 and the Million Pound Game, but this IMG grade shows they are one of the sports biggest clubs.
This year has been disappointing for the Trin, as their time in Super League came to an end; but according to the IMG grades they are still inside the top 12 biggest clubs in the country. This is a huge boost for Wakefield, as it gives new owner Matt Ellis plenty of strong foundations to build off. Ellis has already said he wants to achieve the best grade possible, but being awarded a high B grade shows that everything is already in order before the proper rebuild begins, which will only make his job easier.
The French outfit narrowly missed out on promotion back to Super League, but they are undoubtedly a winner from today’s IMG grades. They are the highest ranked side outside of Super League, and are higher than Leigh Leopards, Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers. Furthermore, of the clubs given a B grade (17) they are the third highest, so are close to breaking the A grade boundary. Toulouse getting an A grade would do wonders for the game in France, and this provisional B grade shows how close they are to locking their place in Super League.
Whilst these four clubs will undoubtedly be happy with their grade, there are always going to be clubs that won’t be best pleased with theirs. Here are our losers from today’s bombshell announcement.
Possibly the biggest shock of the morning was seeing Castleford ranked 13th in IMG’s table. The Fords are ranked below two Championship clubs in Wakefield and Toulouse, which shows they have massive areas to improve on if they want to keep their place in Super League under the new IMG frameworks. They now officially sit outside of the top 12 teams in the country, which has definitely been hampered by a poor season in 2023. What’s even more worrying for Castleford is the teams around them all appear to be making strides both on and off the field; the Tigers will need to keep pace with those around them, or risk being booted out of Super League.
The newly promoted London Broncos are ranked 24th in the country on the IMG table, below League One side Doncaster. For a Super League side to be given this low of a score is a bad look for the competition, and whilst on field performance is clearly their biggest points getter, they need to make a big push at sorting their off-field stuff out, especially growing their fanbase, if they want to improve their IMG score.
IMG grades were supposed to take Bradford back to the promised land of Super League, but they find themselves languishing below Castleford in 14th. The Bulls need to make improvements off the pitch if they want to boost their score. Odsal needs a major facelift, which will help boost their attendances as well as their stadium score. They have green shoots underneath, with a strong academy and good on-field performances, but away from the pitch they need to fix a lot of the problems and IMG won’t give them a free pass back to the top flight.
North Wales Crusaders
The Welsh side have been given IMGs lowest score out of all the clubs in the top three divisions; yet they were only 80 minutes away from the Championship. The Crusaders have plenty of things off the pitch that they need to work on, but it’s a worrying sign that they are bottom of the pile in IMGs eyes.