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

The Rugby Football League brought IMG to submit proposals on increasing investment and fans

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The relegation will be scrapped for Premier League clubs in radical new plans for the sport proposed by its new strategic partner, sports management company IMG.

On Wednesday, after months of analysis, proposals were made to the 37 rugby league clubs on how to proceed, with small changes to radical reforms being discussed among the rugby league community.

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

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They have worked with the sport and its partners to find a path forward from 2024 onwards that will increase revenue and participation, with recommendations making the first step of that plan and according to Rugby Football League president Simon Johnson, the proposals have “landed very well” with the clubs.

The main recommendations of the IMG are as follows:

IMG . Recommendations

• A repositioned calendar that improves flow, narrative and engagement, including regular interest “peaks” and catchy season peaks.
• A global game-compatible calendar to facilitate an international window in October and the integration of an international player mid-season.
• Participation at the top level depends on a set of procedures on and off the field, which are introduced through a club rating system with the aim of supporting financial sustainability and encouraging investment in clubs. Tier A clubs will be guaranteed participation at the top level while Tier B clubs will be re-evaluated annually with the top ranked clubs occupying the remaining positions at the top level. The ups and downs of the field of play will continue between the second and third tiers with the second tier becoming increasingly filled with strong tier B clubs.
• An expansion strategy being developed that targets and supports the growth of the women’s and girls’ game, as well as growth in new markets.
• The participation of clubs outside the UK will be limited and with additional criteria to support local growth.
• Centralize operations as this can maximize efficiencies and increase revenue (eg tickets and digital infrastructure).
• Introducing a new brand strategy and aligning it with the above mentioned business strategy.

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An outstanding proposal is a top category that is determined based on “on and off the field” criteria, a rating system that decides to participate in a league.

The number of clubs in this league has not yet been determined but there will be a league of “Tier B” clubs that participate in the second and third divisions and continue to be promoted and relegated.

These ‘Tier B’ clubs will be re-evaluated annually and the highest rated clubs will participate in the higher tier.

Classification criteria will be announced before the start of next season and will be presented on a illustrative basis in 2024 before being fully rolled out in 2025. Class A is at the top level, Class B is at the top level when space becomes available, and Class C will be in Class Two and Three.

More recommendations

In addition to specific proposals, IMG has also recommended removing ring fixtures, including Magic Weekend, bringing the Challenge Cup final back to May and increasing the focus on international breaks.

Relive how St Helens became the first Premier League team to win four major finals in a row

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Relive how St Helens became the first Premier League team to win four major finals in a row

Relive how St Helens became the first Premier League team to win four major finals in a row

They say the cause of the sport has been too focused on the form and structure itself rather than the product and they promote a renewed focus on fan interaction and match day experiences.

In order to put these proposals into practice, IMG says they have consulted with the NRL and IRL about putting international rugby league on the front foot, which should be aided by a coordinated global calendar for the sport.

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

However, the number of clubs outside the UK will also be limited to two with a minimum number of local players on match day 17 among the participation criteria.

These clubs must also support the additional travel costs of UK clubs so that they can be covered by a central contribution.

The goal by 2026 is to have a top flight of 14 teams and 14 teams into the tournament in 2024. The premier league remains flexible and there are no plans to merge clubs.

Reaction from the partnership

Simon Johnson, President of Rugby Football League, said: “This is an important day in terms of setting a new course for the sport. We have prioritized transparency, in sharing these recommendations first with clubs and then with fans via the media.

“It’s very much the direction of travel in these key recommendations, with great layers of detail still to be worked through.

“But these proposals contain an acknowledgment of the need for significant changes to address the range of challenges facing the sport at all levels, and recommendations for those changes that have the potential to alter the approach, mood and reality of rugby league in the UK and abroad.”

Ken Davey, President of the Super League (Europe) stressed the importance of advertisements.

“Founded solidly on the reorganization of the Premier League and the NFL, this has been a comprehensive process conducted by IMG, in which all major stakeholders in the sport have played important roles,” Davey said.

“We would like to thank the clubs, broadcasters, business partners and supporters who contributed to the IMG recommendations, which defined a new future for Rugby League and could take it in a bold and positive direction.

“At the Super League, we look forward to the next phase of this comprehensive process, working to provide more updates that will shape the sport’s long-term future.”

St Helen lifted their fourth consecutive Grand Final with a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

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St Helen lifted their fourth consecutive Grand Final with a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

St Helen lifted their fourth consecutive Grand Final with a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos

Matt Dwyer, Vice President of Sports Management at IMG added: “Having now had the opportunity to delve deeper into the sport, including through consultations with all key stakeholders in the game, our enthusiasm for this 12-year strategic partnership and what could have been only increase.

“We have a unique opportunity to change the trajectory of the sport’s growth and believe the recommendations we have made today will provide the foundation for that growth and attract new investment into the game.

“Our approach is product-focused and leveraging the full expertise of IMG and the broader Endeavor network to create a high-quality entertainment offering for audiences.”

Clubs have been invited to a follow-up meeting on October 13, where they will have the opportunity to provide further feedback, and support will be sought to enable the Rugby League CEO and IMG to work on the details of the recommendations.

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