Talking Rugby League: RFL’s bill from IMG raises questions

I WAS surprised to learn recently that the RFL have apparently been issued with an invoice to pay £450,000 to IMG.

I was surprised because I had been under the impression that IMG’s income from Rugby League would be generated by any increases in broadcasting contracts over the coming years during the twelve-year period of their partnership with the RFL.

It seems, however, that the £450,000 payment is due because of the work that the digital arm of IMG have done with the clubs.

To be fair to IMG, most clubs have told me that IMG’s advice has enabled them to significantly improve their digital operations and it may be that the payment is fully justified, both by the outcome of that work and its inclusion in the IMG contract with the RFL.

I emailed RFL CEO Tony Sutton to ask for clarification of this payment, asking him to confirm its size, when it would be paid and what it is for, while also asking him whether the RFL has the funds in place to enable it to pay this amount.

Tony’s response is that it would not be right for him to confirm the details of any contract “mainly due to the commercial confidentiality of such agreements”.

Obviously that raises the question of who, exactly, has seen and read through the contract with IMG.

I’m quite sure that the clubs haven’t and I wonder whether the non-executive directors of both the RFL and RL Commercial have done so.

If so, I wonder whether any of them raised any objection to this deal when it was presented to them.

After all, scrutinising such matters is what they are supposed to be getting paid for.