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Major problem delays first IMG grades

Super League's first year under IMG

The futures of Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, St Helens, the rest of Super League as well as the Championship and League One clubs is now in the hands of IMG.

IMG are set to bring in a set of criteria that is designed to help clubs off the field just as much as on it.

This is naturally because the product the sport is selling is symbiotically linked with the off field elements like attendance, social media presence, facilities.

These are vital elements that we need to consider to grow the game and be appealing to broadcasters.

Though a new Sky deal has been agreed it already feels like the 2026 TV deal will be make or break for the sport as it could be an opportunity to claim a much more lucrative TV deal compared to the last couple.

These criteria will guide clubs and they will get their first flavour of them in the coming weeks.

This is because they will be issued a dummy grade to guide them towards what they need to remedy.

This was expected this week (week commencing 16th October) but it is understood that this has been delayed likely due to the crisis in league One with an emergency meeting held to consider its future following Newcastle Thunder withdrawing.

For those that need a reminder of the criteria, they are the following:

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.

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