How would IMG’s new ‘grading system’ for clubs work?

IMG have recommended a new “grading system” for Super League which would see some clubs protected from relegation.

As part of their recommendations for the future of Rugby League, the sports agency have proposed three categories of clubs based on a range of on- and off-field criteria.

‘Category A’ clubs would have guaranteed participation in the top tier, while the highest-ranked ‘Category B’ clubs would fill the remainder of the highest division.

The rest would compete in the second or third tiers alongside ‘Category C’ clubs, between which promotion and relegation remains.

Clubs will receive categories at the end of 2023 as an indication of where they stand, before a full introduction the following year when they will be used to determine the make-up of the elite tier from the 2025 season onwards.

The criteria used to determine a club’s category will be announced before the 2023 season starts, but IMG say that they will be “objective, easily measurable, reliable, transparent and valid”.

IMG say the categories will set a high bar, guaranteeing that there will not be twelve clubs that meet the top standard when first introduced.

As a result, Super League will remain at twelve teams in the 2025 season, and only once there are twelve clubs that meet the ‘Category A’ criteria will the division expand to 14.

Teams in ‘Category B’ will be reviewed on an annual basis so clubs have the opportunity to move from the lower divisions to the top.

IMG’s vice-president of sports management, Matt Dwyer, says the idea is for an “open competition”, where there is “a spot for everybody who meets the criteria” and an “incentive to invest” for clubs.

For top clubs who will have their place in Super League guaranteed, the system will allow them to be more financially stable and “be in a position to help grow the sport”.