IMG last week 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.
One man who has always been forward thinking and took Leeds Rhinos from the brink to success, Gary Hetherington, has given his verdict on the criteria and the reaction to it on the Rhinos’ YouTube channel.
He spoke about the collective support for the grading criteria:
“I have been involved in the game a long time and I can say that there has never been as much collectivism as there is right now.
“So far the direction of travel has been completely supported. What has gone on in rugby league over the last two years is constitutionally significant.
“We have seen a coming together of all the clubs under the RFL. Super League has effectively been dissolved in that regard, in terms of a decision-making organisation.
“Clubs have now all got the ability to grow and be part of the new future. There have been a few dissenting voices but not many.
“Much of the decision-making is yet to unfold, but all the indications show that clubs are ready for change, and they are ready for improvement to their own organisation and businesses.
“What IMG will be doing is showing the clubs exactly what they need to be doing to get to where they want to go.”