The RFL has given its'strong support' to IMG's radical new plans to eliminate Super League relegation.
The principles and direction of the recommendations put in place by the RFL's new strategic partner, sports management company IMG, in what could be the biggest changes to the Super League since its inception 25 years ago have received strong support from RFL members.
The RFL has given "strong support" to the principles and direction of radical new plans put in place by its new strategic partner, sports management company IMG, in what could be the sport's biggest changes in 25 years.
Following months of analysis, proposals on how the sport can move forward have been presented to the RFL's 42 clubs, with small changes to radical overhauls being discussed among the rugby league community.
The Super League has confirmed key dates for 2023; full schedules will be released in November.
Saints make history with a Grand Final victory over the Rhinos Woolf backs Saints for a fifth consecutive title | Smith: Leeds were second-best
"At a meeting of the Rugby League Council arranged for further discussions of the Reimagining Rugby League recommendations presented to the sport by IMG last month, RFL members today gave strong support to the principles and direction of the recommendations," the RFL said.
"The sport's executive will now collaborate with IMG to flesh out the specifics of the recommendations." This will necessitate extensive consultation with clubs and other stakeholders.
"This work will complement other workstreams to maximize the sport's commercial potential and build deeper relationships with fans and new audiences."
"Members were assured that they would have additional opportunities to express their opinions as the process progressed."
IMG has proposed seven key measures in the "Reimagining Rugby League Consultation Project" 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 that increases revenue and engagement beginning in 2024. According to Simon Johnson, chairman of the Rugby Football League, the proposals "landed very well" with clubs, who will now work with IMG to flesh out the details of the recommendations.
Recommendations from IMG
A repositioned calendar that optimizes flow, narrative, and engagement, with regular "peaks" of interest and a compelling season climax. A calendar that is aligned with the global game to allow for an international window in October as well as a mid-season international.
Participation in the top tier will be based on a variety of on and off-field measures delivered through a club grading system with the goal of supporting financial sustainability and encouraging club investment. 'Category A' clubs will be guaranteed top-tier participation, while 'Category B' clubs will be re-assessed annually, with the highest-ranking clubs occupying the remaining top-tier slots. Promotion and relegation between the second and third tiers will continue, with tier two increasingly populated by strong Category B clubs. An expansion strategy that targets and supports the growth of the Women's and Girls' game, as well as growth in new markets, is being developed.
Club participation from outside the UK will be limited and subject to additional requirements to support domestic growth. Centralization of operations to maximize efficiencies and drive incremental revenue (e.g. ticketing and digital infrastructure). A new brand strategy will be introduced and will be aligned with the aforementioned commercial strategy.
The most notable proposal is a top tier that will be determined by both "on and off-field" criteria, a grading system that will determine league participation.
The number of clubs in this league has not yet been determined, but there will be a league of "Category B" clubs that will compete in the second and third tiers and continue with promotion and relegation.
These "Category B" clubs will be evaluated annually, and the highest-ranking clubs will compete in the top tier.
The standout proposal is a top tier that will be decided on both "on and off-field" criteria, a grading system that will determine league participation.
The number of clubs in this league has not yet been determined, but there will be a league of "Category B" clubs that compete in the second and third tiers and continue with promotion and relegation.
These "Category B" clubs will be reassessed annually, and the highest-ranking clubs will compete in the top tier.
In addition to the proposals already made, IMG has suggested removing loop fixtures such as the Magic Weekend, relocating the Challenge Cup final to May, and putting more emphasis on international breaks.
They claim that the sport has been overly focused on the format and structure rather than the product, and they are promoting a renewed emphasis on fan engagement and matchday experiences.
To put these proposals into action, IMG has met with the NRL and IRL to discuss putting international rugby league on the map, which should be aided by an aligned global calendar for the sport.
Outside of the men's competition format, France, London, and the women's game were identified as three areas of focus for growth.
The number of clubs outside the UK, however, would be limited to two, with a minimum number of domestic players in a match-day 17 being one of the participation criteria.
These clubs must also cover the incremental travel costs of UK clubs until a central contribution can cover them.
The goal is to have a top flight with 14 teams by 2026, and 14 teams in the Championship in 2024. League One remains adaptable, with no plans to merge clubs.