What a 14-team Super League could look like under the IMG licensing model with the likes of Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors exempt from relegation

IMG are set to reimagine rugby league with the return of the franchising model.

That being said, alongside that model will be promotion and relegation – though this will take place in a more fancy model than what is currently present.

For those Super League clubs awarded a Grade A licence, they will be exempt from relegation whilst Grade B clubs can be relegated in exchange for Grade B Championship clubs.

So, going forward what could a 14-team Super League look like based on the IMG model?

Grade A license

Catalans Dragons – There is no question that the Catalans Dragons would be given a Grade A license. The true face of the expansionist model, the Dragons have a strong French essence within the playing squad, a superb stadium, a brilliant fanbase and a committed owner.

Hull FC – Though on the field Hull have been disappointing in recent seasons there can be little opposition to the Black and Whites being given a Grade A license. The club has superb facilities at the MKM Stadium as well as brand new training ground, whilst FC has one of the best travelling fanbases in Super League.

Leeds Rhinos – On and off the field, Leeds Rhinos are a model club. The modernisation of Headingley has truly been a work of art whilst Rohan Smith turned the club around dramatically following Richard Agar’s departure in 2022. With one of the biggest fanbases in the league as well as magnificent facilities, the Rhinos would have no trouble being a Grade A club.

St Helens – The best Super League team for the past four years, St Helens do not look like slowing down anytime soon. A new stadium, an incredible conveyor belt of youth and a superb community programme, Saints are the epitome of how a top-flight club should be run.

Warrington Wolves – Despite a catastrophic year on the field in 2022, Warrington are a club doing everything right off the field. Almost always ahead of the game in terms of unique initiatives and with a large fanbase and superb facilities, the Wolves will be hoping for better under Daryl Powell in 2023. Still, Warrington would still likely be awarded a Grade A license.

Wigan Warriors – Alongside St Helens, Wigan Warriors pride themselves on having a superb academy and with the transition of a number of youngsters through to the first-team, their ‘Wiganness’ continues to be felt. A brilliant 2022 on the field with a Challenge Cup win as well as growing attendances, Wigan will always be a Grade A club.

B license:

Castleford Tigers – Whilst neighbours Wakefield continue to redevelop Belle Vue, Castleford’s attempts have yet to turn into fruition. Whilst facilities lets the Tigers down, the on-field product has been decent in recent seasons as the club’s academy system appears in good hands.

Hull KR – With a brilliant new stand at Craven Park as well as the creation of ‘fan park’ experience on game day, Rovers are making important movements off the field. Though the standard on the field in 2022 declined towards the end of the season, attendances continued to grow. Within a few years, don’t be surprised to see Hull KR as a Grade A club.

Huddersfield Giants – It proved really tempting to put Huddersfield in the Grade A group courtesy of a vastly improved product on the field as well as the continued brilliant management off it. Magnificent facilities as well as a great youth product edges the Giants closer, but the smaller fanbase could hinder a top-level Grade A license.

Leigh Leopards– Derek Beaumont will have Leigh as a Grade A club within a few years – make no bones about it. The newly rebranded Leopards have a wonderful facility at the Leigh Sports Village with a raft of new sponsorship deals coming off the back of the change. On the field it will be up to Adrian Lam to turn Leigh into what Beaumont wants – a top-six Super League side.

Salford Red Devils – A club that is growing on and off the field, Salford Red Devils would command a Grade B license with ease. Having enjoyed great facilities at the AJ Bell Stadium for a number of years, the club is in talks with local businessman Sebastian Gerrard about a potential takeover which would certainly help take Salford to the next level. On the field, Paul Rowley engineered a superb 2022 with the club making it to the Super League play-off semi-finals.

Toulouse Olympique – With IMG setting out their plan to limit the number of clubs from outside the UK in Super League, Toulouse could have difficulty in finding a path back to the top flight. However, a brilliant ground, a good core fanbase, a dedicated owner and a Super League-quality squad would see the French side knocking on the door for a Grade B license.

Wakefield Trinity – Credit to Wakefield, they have seen their Belle Vue ground as a weakness and have set about redeveloping it with speed. One stand has completely gone whilst a new pitch and big TV have been installed. Trinity’s core fanbase could be bigger whilst the on-field product could be better, but they are still more than worthy of a Grade B license.

York RLFC – There hasn’t been a Super League side from York grace the top-flight yet, but that could be about to change in the near future – particularly with the reintroduction of licensing. A brilliant facility at the LNER Community Stadium, a wonderful city, a superb owner and a growing fan base all point to York becoming a Super League club soon.