The Garry Schofield Column: There is little new in IMG’s underwhelming proposals

They called it Rugby League’s “most comprehensive consultation ever” – but I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed by IMG’s proposals for progressing the game.

The world-famous company has made its name as sports and events management pioneers, but there doesn’t seem to be much new in what they’ve come up with.

Meeting a list of criteria to guarantee a place in Super League?

How does that differ from licensing, which was tried, and dispensed with, not too long ago?

If it wasn’t the way forward then, and I seem to remember it proved unpopular with quite a few fans, who argued it created too many meaningless matches, then what has changed in the meantime?

I’m not saying clubs shouldn’t try to improve themselves in all areas, but under licensing, what happens off the pitch becomes as, or even more, important than what happens on it.

In my view, points earned on the field should decide who plays in which division, because if you take away the need to win, and the rewards doing that brings, what’s the point of sport?

Anyone connected with a club, whether players, officials or fans, is driven by the dream of winning trophies or promotion and having the chance to compete against the best. 

If you’re a supporter from outside the top-flight paying hard-earned cash to follow your team and cheer them on, you want to know that if they do have a great season on the pitch, they will go up.

When getting promoted is down to other factors, where’s the motivation to build a successful side?

I know some might say there’s no promotion and relegation in the NRL, but it’s a completely different animal in a country where the sporting culture and set-up is completely different to our own.

Alongside the principle of applying criteria, my other concern is who decides what they are and who is or isn’t fulfilling them?

If ground ownership was one, some of the current big clubs wouldn’t meet it.

Meanwhile Wakefield didn’t have the best season in Super League, but their Reserves made their Grand Final, so how much would that count for assessing the importance placed on clubs developing and bringing through their own players?

How transparent would the whole process be and what would be in place to ensure it wasn’t a case of cherry-picking the top-flight teams?

IMG need to put more a lot more meat on the bones, not just concerning the so-called grading system, but also their vision of the game in London, which was singled out as a key area of growth.

How many times is London going to be tried, and what different approaches would be taken to avoid ending up in the kind of limbo the Broncos are in now?

One IMG proposal I do fully agree with is the creation of a more structured international calendar, with a mid-season fixture and an end-of-season window.

The shorter-than-normal gap between the forthcoming World Cup and the 2025 tournament in France provides a chance to build some momentum in this area.

But in order to create meaningful matches, clubs as well as the Southern Hemisphere countries need to be on board.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.