Member of IMG pushes back against relegation concern

Today IMG revealed the club grading criteria for clubs aspiring for Super League moving forward which clubs will have the chance to vote on in April.

If voted through by RFL Council on 19 April, illustrative club grades for 2024 season to be released later this year, with grading system coming into full effect in 2025

IMG today presented to the RFL Council the recommended grading criteria to define how Super League, RFL Championship and League One clubs will be assessed starting from 2025, as part of the Reimagining Rugby League plans.

Based on a combination of on and off-field variables, the proposed grading criteria are designed to collectively increase clubs’ fanbases, diversify revenues, drive investment into clubs and the sport in a sustainable manner, run clubs in a best-in-class way and ensure strong governance is in place.

The recommended grading criteria cover five areas, with each element contributing to a percentage of the overall weighting, including:

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.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Matt Dwyer of IMG has explained that the criteria will only work if they have the backing of clubs:

“It’s relatively simple, we have been asked to grow the sport so we have proposed a criteria that will help clubs with that allowing them to know what to do and the starting point of that is the grading system presented today.

“We have done a pretty extensive consultation throughout this period. What we need to do is improve all our clubs if we want to compete with all the other sports because there are plenty of options for fans today.

“We have been really happy with the support we have been given from clubs so far and the backing from clubs have been great.

“We are partners with the clubs to grow the support and we can’t do that ourselves so we need the backing of the clubs.

“We will provide support and ideas but ultimately we need clubs investing and looking at their operations and looking to get to the next level.

“We need clubs to change the way they are run. We change the structure but ultimately there has to be changes at club level to take us where we need to be.”

When asked if he is confident that the vote will go in their favour, Dwyer said: “I am confident as I can be.”

Meanwhile, he pushed against the suggestion that the timing of the first official licences which come at the end of 2024 prior to 2025 are too late with Brian Carney suggesting it would be tougher for sides to recruit than it is now even with questions over relegation and promotion.

To this Dwyer pushed against this concern that IMG’s system could be worse for recruitment that with relegation now: “I don’t think it will be any later than it is now, if anything it would clearer than it is now.”

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