IMG gradings could change the face of Rugby League in this country, and more importantly change the very concept of promotion and relegation at the top level. As clubs look to achieve maximum points across all areas, teams who don’t make positive strides to improve all aspects of their clubs could easily be left behind.
Last month, we saw the first ever illustrative IMG gradings. These gradings saw seven clubs awarded that all important ‘A grade’, but controversially Castleford Tigers missed out on the top 12 teams. Whilst the Tigers have appealed for their grade to be changed, it could spell the end of the Fords time in the top division under the new guidelines.
Newly promoted London Broncos were also on the wrong end of the IMG gradings, as they found themselves ranked 24th on IMG’s list.
The gradings don’t fully come into force until 2025, but how could Super League look at the start of that first season of IMG ball? We’ve taken a guess at the 12 clubs Super League who will be in the top flight when the gradings come into play.
The defending Super League champions Wigan Warriors finished second on the IMG table last month, but 2024 could see them move up to the top of the tree. The Warriors on-field performance stats will be boosted by their title triumph, and the squad they have assembled for the 2024 campaign could see them score highly in this department again.
The Rhinos finished top of the IMG tree last month, and they should finish high on the gradings list next year too. The Headingley outfit can be considered a model club off the pitch, growing a passionate fan base with a modern stadium. Last season was a difficult year on the pitch for the Men’s team, however following some impressive signings they could improve their three-year average to boost their IMG score.
St Helens are another model club, and should get a similar score to that they got this year. They have a passionate fan base, terrific on-field performances and a modern stadium; so they should keep their place at the top of the IMG ladder.
Another high finish could be in store for the French outfit this year. They are stationed in a great catchment area, they have a passionate fan base and being in a target area should help their cause. Last year’s run to the Grand Final should also help their three-year average on the performance side too, so they could be in-store for another high IMG grade.
Hull KR are a club that’s building, both on and off the pitch. On the pitch, a fourth placed finish and a Wembley appearance last season laid the foundations for an exciting year ahead, and some shrewd signings this off-season could see them return to the playoffs. Off the pitch, they have made Craven Park into a great fan experience, with the addition of Craven Street; and this will keep their facilities points high.
Warrington Wolves will again score highly with IMG, but their biggest improvement could come from their on-field performance. They scraped the playoffs last season, and the year before saw them finish 10th in the table; but the appointment of Sam Burgess, alongside some good signings-like Sam Powell- could help boost their average.
Hull FC have a modern stadium and a passionate fan base; but on-field performance will also be their biggest target area. They have failed to reach their full potential over the last two seasons, but Tony Smith will be looking for a higher finish last season, and this could boost their IMG score.
The Leopards are another club growing across all areas. They are the prime example of fan experience, and the improvements Derek Beaumont has made to the Leigh Sports Village in this area will really boost their score in this field. On the pitch, they are laying the foundations for success, which should see their on-field scores improve.
Huddersfield have a state of the art stadium, decent on-field scores over the past three years; but their biggest area for improvement will be fan base. The Giants have made positive steps to bring in new fans on social media; however they often only see 4,500 fans at the John Smiths on a game-day. This is will the Giants target area, but if they can grow this they could leapfrog up the IMG ladder.
Salford Red Devils
Salford are in a sticky position at the moment with the Stadium situation, but Salford should keep their place in IMG’s top 12. They have a decent on-field average from the past three seasons, but their biggest area for improvement will be attendances. This season they have averaged just under 5000 fans, so will be looking to improve this next year.
The Trin may have been relegated to the Championship, but this could be the start of something bigger at Belle Vue. Wakefield’s new owner Matt Ellis has laid out fantastic plans to boost each area of their IMG scores. The new stand will undoubtedly boost their facilities score, but it should help bring in higher attendances. Furthermore, the squad they have assembled for the Championship next season will boost their on-field scores, but it could have a positive impact on their attendances. It may originally have seemed like a negative thing, but the relegation could allow Trinity to rebuild the club from the ground up.
The French side ranked surprisingly high last month, but they could find themselves in the top 12 again next year. Their loss in the Championship Grand Final has kept them in the Championship, but they are in a great catchment area as an expansion club, and the facilities at the club will also help give them a good score. Could 2024 be their last season in the second division?
Castleford Tigers: The Fords will need to make drastic improvements if they are to remain in the top flight. There has been a positive update regarding their stadium redevelopment this past week, but will it come quick enough to boost their IMG grade?