“They can lose every match & not get relegated” – Ex-Sky commentator questions end of relegation and protection of big clubs

Yesterday, IMG presented the following recommendations to Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs:

IMG has today presented the recommendations arising from the Reimagining Rugby League Consultation Project – a key part of the first phase of the agency’s 12-year strategic partnership with the sport agreed in the spring.

In addition to drawing on IMG’s global expertise, the recommendations have been made following extensive consultation with key stakeholders across Rugby League, including clubs, broadcasters, sponsors, media, players, representatives from the community game and international partners, as well as a survey of supporters attracting almost 20,000 responses. This is the most comprehensive piece of consultation ever undertaken on the sport.

IMG’s recommendations have the overriding aim of driving the long-term value and impact of the sport.

In summary the recommendations are:

A re-positioned calendar which optimises flow, narrative and engagement, incorporating regular ‘peaks’ of interest and a compelling season climax.

A calendar aligned with the global game to facilitate an international window in October and incorporate a mid-season international.

Participation in the top tier to be based on a range of on and off field measures, delivered through a club grading system with the aim of supporting financial sustainability and encouraging investment into clubs. ‘Category A’ clubs will be guaranteed participation in the top tier whilst ‘Category B’ clubs will be re-assessed annually with the highest-ranking clubs occupying the remaining slots in the top tier.
Promotion and relegation will continue on the field of play between the second and third tiers with tier two increasingly filled with strong Category B Clubs.

An expansion strategy to be developed that targets and supports the growth of the Women’s and Girls’ game, and also growth in new markets.

Participation of clubs outside of the UK to be capped and with additional standards to support domestic growth.

Operations to be centralised where this can maximise efficiencies and drive incremental revenue (e.g. ticketing and digital infrastructure).

A new brand strategy to be introduced and aligned with the above commercial strategy.
Clubs have been invited to a follow-up meeting on October 13, at which they will have the opportunity to provide further feedback, and support will be sought to enable the Rugby League executive and IMG to work on the detail of the recommendations.

All of these sparked discussion but especially the end of traditional relegation and the introduction of licencing.

Such a divisive subject has sparked widespread debate but former Sky Sports commentator on rugby league and Sin Bin Podcast host Rod Studd has had a very controversial say.

He took to Twitter to take aim at the fact the big clubs will be protected from relegation even if they lose every game: “Great news for Wigan, Leeds etc. They can now lose every super league match. And never get relegated.”

He also questioned if this meant even the Grand Final winners could be relegated if they didn’t meant the necessary off field criteria: “Did he just say the team winning the grand final could be relegated??”

He persisted down this line of inquiry suggesting that for a sport the focus will no longer be on the field: “Once upon a time rugby league was Who Dares Wins. It’s going to become Who Cares Who Wins.”

Ultimately, he felt that the recommendations were too vague and that the end of relegation would create a situation where the sport itself would be secondary to off field matters: “IMG’s proposals for RL are so lacking in detail + substance that they’re reminiscent of Liz truss’s vague, vacuous proposals during her leadership bid. We don’t know how many teams will be in each division + how that’s decided. We don’t know the point scoring system.”

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Willy Eckerslike
Willy Eckerslike
2 months ago

We’ve been here before. I can recall Hunslet and Dewsbury being denied promotion despite both having brand new stadiums.

The authorities certainly don’t want to see Featherstone Rovers in the top tier. The club is far too “North-of-England” for their taste and their supporters were at the forefront of the successful campaign to scupper the loathed “merger” plans in 1995 (although the 1994/95 second-tier champions Keighley were denied promotion).