Bradford Bulls CEO largely supportive of IMG proposals, but believes there is room for improvement in the grading criteria

IF there has been one firm focal point in rugby league over the past year then it has been the future of the sport under marketing giants IMG.

IMG came into rugby league aiming to ‘re-imagine’ the sport in what can only be described as a difficult economic situation.

Since then, five pillars have formed the focus for all 36 professional rugby league clubs, with catchment, facilities, fandom, performance and finance the five areas which will determine all clubs’ futures.

For Bradford Bulls chief executive Jason Hirst, he is behind IMG’s proposals but believes that some areas can be improved upon – particularly given what he has called “an inbuilt towards Super League clubs”.

“We, like the vast majority of voters, voted to accept the IMG proposals. We did that, because we recognise the need for Rugby League to evolve and commercially grow off the field by attracting new supporters and sponsors,” Hirst told League Express.

“That, in turn, should see future broadcasting rights agreed for higher monetary figures. As a part-time Championship club that continues to run nine teams (First Team, Reserves, Elite Academy, Scholarship, Women’s, Women’s Under-19s, Wheelchair, PDRL and LDRL), not only for the good of Bradford and the Bulls, but also the wider sport, we would have liked greater emphasis and credit in terms of scoring, to be given to that.

“As we’ve also openly stated from the outset, we believe there’s an inbuilt bias towards Super League clubs in terms of finances, attendances and broadcasting figures, because if we were currently in Super League, we know that we’d attract larger crowds and broadcast viewing figures that would lead to greater finances.

“We would also like more emphasis to be placed on on-field performance when it comes to promotion and relegation.”

Hirst is, however, pragmatic and explains that the Bulls are in constant dialogue with the powers-that-be as well as other clubs in a bid to make the best decisions for the future of the sport.

“We do, however, recognise that other clubs have different opinions, so we continue to work alongside them and IMG (through the RFL) to bring about the well-publicised changes ahead of the 2025 season.

“Put simply, the impending changes are designed to benefit the sport as a whole, not just individual clubs, so like most other clubs, we remain supportive of the changes.

“But we do believe that the grading criteria can be improved upon.”

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