Super League: Relegation scrapped for leading clubs in radical new plans from IMG | Rugby League News

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In total, 37 professional rugby league clubs have voted in favour of the proposed IMG changes – including all 12 Super League clubs – meaning a top tier that does not include promotion or relegation

Last Updated: 13/10/22 3:31pm

The Rugby Football League have brought in IMG to deliver proposals on growing investment and audiences

The Rugby Football League have brought in IMG to deliver proposals on growing investment and audiences

Relegation has been scrapped after all 12 Super League clubs voted in favour of radical new plans put in place by its new strategic partner, sports management company IMG in the biggest changes to the sport since its inception 25 years ago.

After months of analysis, proposals were put forward to the 37 clubs in the RFL on how the sport can move forward, with small changes to radical overhauls discussed among the rugby league community.

Relive how St Helens became the first Super League side to win a record four Grand Finals in a row...

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Relive how St Helens became the first Super League side to win a record four Grand Finals in a row…

Relive how St Helens became the first Super League side to win a record four Grand Finals in a row…

In the “Reimagining Rugby League Consultation Project”, IMG put forward seven key measures that they believe will drive the sport’s long-term growth as IMG, the RFL and Super League embark on a 12-year strategic partnership.

They have been working with the sport and its partners to find a path forward from 2024 onwards that increases revenue and engagement, with the recommendations set out the first step of that plan and according to Simon Johnson, Chairman of the Rugby Football League, the proposals “landed very well” with clubs.

  • 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.

The stand-out proposal is a top tier that will be decided on both “on and off-field” criteria, a grading system deciding participation in the league.

How many clubs will be in this league is not yet outlined but there would then be a league of “Category B” clubs that participate in the second and third tier and continue with promotion and relegation.

These clubs that are considered “Category B” will be reassessed annually and the highest-ranking clubs will take part in the top tier.

The criteria for grading will be announced before the start of next season and will be introduced on an illustrative basis in 2024 before being rolled out fully in 2025. Category A are in top tier, Category B in top tier when space available and Category C will be in the second and third tier.

Further recommendations

We look back at some key games from St Helens' incredible season...

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We look back at some key games from St Helens’ incredible season…

We look back at some key games from St Helens’ incredible season…

Further to the proposals set out, IMG also recommended the removal of loop fixtures, including the Magic Weekend, bringing the Challenge Cup final back to May and having increased focus on international breaks.

They say that the issue for the sport has been too much focus on the format and structure itself rather than the product and are promoting a renewed focus on fan engagement and matchday experiences.

In order to put these proposals into action, IMG have had consultation meetings with the NRL and IRL about putting international rugby league at the forefront which should be helped by an aligned global calendar for the sport.

Outside of the format of the men’s competition, France, London and the women’s game identified as three areas of focus for growth.

However, the number of clubs outside of the UK would also be capped at two with a minimum number of domestic players in a match-day 17 among the participation criteria.

St Helens lifted their fourth Grand Final trophy in a row after a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

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St Helens lifted their fourth Grand Final trophy in a row after a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

St Helens lifted their fourth Grand Final trophy in a row after a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

Those clubs must also subsidise incremental travel costs of UK clubs until a central contribution can otherwise cover them.

The aim by 2026 is to have a top flight with 14 teams and 14 teams in the Championship in 2024. League One remains flexible and there are no plans of merging clubs.





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