Domestic rugby league has felt a huge change today with the first major step of IMG’s ‘Re-Imagining Rugby League’ process having happened, the preliminary grading has been released.
Whilst this won’t take immediate effect, it’s an indicator of where clubs stand in the pyramid now and therefore which league they would fall into based on their grade.
It’s bene established that all Grade A sides, those who record a score of 15 points or more out of the maximum 20, will earn Super League status with IMG stating that the aim is to have all Super League sides at Grade A.
Given that these gradings rely a lot upon off-field factors such as facilities, catchment, fandom and so on, some teams have complained that it’s effectively set up a closed shop and culled the chances of ambitious teams.
One of the teams leading the way in criticism were the ambitious Keighley Cougars who earned promotion from League One to the Championship courtesy of an unbeaten season in 2022.
Splashy signings like Luke Gale prior to 2023 also showed that this intent was carrying over, however they argued vehemently against the IMG grading proposals, believing it wouldn’t reward their on field success.
Despite that the club were relegated from the Championship in 2023 but they’ve now released a statement via their website in reference to the IMG preliminary grading that was released today.
For reference the Cougars earned a Grade C with a score of 6.58, ranking 30th of the 35 teams in the professional pyramid, just under one point shy of the Grade B threshold.
The club statement read as follows:
“Keighley Cougars have today received their illustrative IMG grading for the year ending 2023.
“Whilst disappointed with a rank 30th place, the club are committed to working on granular improvements within the grading pillars and will continue throughout 2024 to increase our IMG points position for 2025.
“We would hope we can do this on a fair and level playing field with a merged League 1 and Championship competition which we believes gives parity between all clubs outside Super League.
“We see our rank 30th as an insult to our club and fans and over the last 4 years, Keighley Cougars have achieved great things:
“– Our Chairman Mick O’Neill has been awarded an MBE for services to rugby league;
“– Cougars were promoted in 2022 in an unbeaten League 1 season
“– Cougars have had national media coverage in both print and broadcast. On occasions with much higher reach and engagements than those considered to be A grade clubs;
“– The club has pioneered LGBTQ+ rights and built an inclusive community in Keighley;
“– Cougars have won RFL and Bradford Council awards for 3 years;
“– Our crowds have doubled over the term.
“Whilst all this success doesn’t fit with IMG’s grading criteria, we will continue to work with them and diversify into the spreadsheet era of Rugby League.
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