Rugby league will do away with automatic promotion and relegation to the top division and upgrade clubs based on a new ratings system, according to proposals from global sports media giant IMG as part of its 12-year “strategic partnership” with sport.
Clubs are divided into three bands on and off the pitch based on a set of as yet undetermined criteria, with teams in the top A band guaranteed to earn their place in the top tier of the competition.
Those who earn “B” category status will fill the remaining spots in a top 12-team league, but face an annual re-evaluation to prove themselves worthy of being placed in the secured “A” leagues. standard of being promoted, or taking the risk of being replaced.
The proposals are due to come into force at the end of the 2024 season, but only if a majority of the 37 professional clubs briefed on the results by IMG ahead of a media presentation in Manchester vote in favor at a meeting next month.
Matt Dwyer, vice president of sports management at IMG, said: “We have a unique opportunity to change the course of sport’s growth and we believe the recommendations we have presented today provide the basis for that growth and new investments in the sport will wear sports.
“Our approach is product focused, leveraging the combined expertise of IMG and the broader Endeavor network to create a quality entertainment offering for fans.”
Dwyer was keen to break out the new plans from the previous licensing model, controversially introduced when the Super League was introduced in 1996, whose much stricter criteria effectively barred a number of clubs from reaching the top flight.
As the new criteria will focus on a range of factors, IMG claims that a club that falls short in one aspect – such as lower ground capacity – will still be able to be awarded an ‘A’ licensing obtained if he excels in all other areas.
The IMG proposals also include abandoning unpopular “Loop” games and the annual “Magic Weekend” to ensure a tighter national schedule that will make time for an international break and return the Challenge Cup Finals to its more traditional May- slot returns.
Expansion will be lower on the priority list, with international entrants capped at a maximum of two – presumably the two current French clubs, Catalans Dragons and Toulouse – and teams from potential growth areas such as London and beyond still need to meet the criteria with long-term business plans .
York chairman Clint Goodchild, whose team is on the cusp of becoming the current top flight after reaching the Championship play-offs this season, broadly welcomed the proposals and said it was imperative that the sport evolve removed from what he believes to be the myth of danger.
“I think overall it’s a positive scenario for the game in general,” Goodchild told the PA news agency.
“I think we have to be bold in our approach and I think giving clubs the opportunity to meet a minimum standard that should be required of elite professional sport is probably a good middle ground.
“The public may be very fond of (promotion and relegation) but the facts say it’s not working. Everyone likes the idea of possibly ascending, but I think it’s hope that kills.
“Clubs are already overextending their capabilities in areas that are unsustainable. They spend money on players who believe that winning on the field will result in profitability and has shut down the game.
“What I like about this scoring system is that it’s not just about where you are in the table, you have to build a business model and something that carries its own weight.”
However, IMG proposals fell short at Keighley Cougars, the club denied promotion to the Super League in 1996 due to the introduction of the licensing model -tier championship.
“I appreciate the contribution IMG can bring to the sport – they bring weight, talent and value,” said club co-owner Ryan O’Neill.
“However, from what I’ve seen today, I have reservations that they fully understand rugby league. This sport is rooted in the north and in the communities. These are the foundations we can build on, be proud of, and embrace to grow organically.
“It’s a huge opportunity to connect with people, entertain people and create a dynamic sport.
“This does not mean superclubs that are immortal to the risk of relegation. It means offering a competitive sport where losers can become winners and winners can become losers. Saving glamor clubs for vanity is not the answer.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/super-league-rugby-league-championship-manchester-catalans-dragons-b2177440.html The automatic promotion and relegation to the Super League should be deleted