What four Championship head coaches think of the new direction under IMG as Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Widnes Vikings and York bosses have their say

THE future of rugby league is currently at its greatest crossroads since Super League began back in 1996.

A new direction under marketing giants IMG is set to come into being in the near future with clubs getting an idea of the criteria they need to become a Grade A, B and C club.

In rugby league as it stands there is great excitement but also trepidation about what IMG can bring to the game.

And at the latest Championship media launch, we asked four head coaches what they think of the potentially unprecedented changes to the sport.

It’s fair to say that Widnes Vikings boss John Kear is a big fan of the changes mooted by IMG.

“I think IMG will revamp it and there are a lot of good ideas being floated around,” Kear told League Express.

“It will benefit the sport. And for me they’ve got to wipe the late clean and start again.

“Maurice Lindsay was a great visionary. He got Sky involved and launched Super League and took the sport to the summer.

“That was radical thinking at the time but to us now it’s normality and I think similar thinking is required now for perhaps the rebirth of the sport which will allow it to grow again.”

Kear’s successor at the Bradford Bulls, Mark Dunning, is also in favour of an ‘overhaul’ of the game and is hopeful that IMG can provide that.

“If we’re doing what we need to on the football field then we can let IMG do what they need to do,” Dunning said.

“There needed to be an overhaul of the game and hopefully IMG can do that. If we can tick boxes along the way then brilliant. I need to make sure we are in the right position on the field.

Sean Long of Featherstone Rovers was keen to emphasise that the ideas that have been touted around IMG are things that the West Yorkshire club already has in place.

“What I’ve seen, we are doing everything we can on the field regarding the players but a lot of the stuff we already have in place off the field,” Long said.

“We’ve got a great facility, we’ve got two pitches, a brilliant set up in the gym. We do a lot of stuff inside because of the cold so we’ve got a massive wrestle area where we do our skills.

“We’ve got a women’s team, we are ticking all the boxes. We are going in the right direction.”

For York Knights boss Andrew Henderson, he already believes his new side is pretty much ready for what IMG throws at clubs off the field.

“I do think the club has a lot of strong infrastructure in place off the field already,” Henderson said.

“There will be things we need to improve and the most notable one is moving from part-time to full-time. It’s exciting and we will get to the point where we have the ability to compete on the Super League field.

“The long-term aspiration of the owner is to see York in Super League, we’ve got a plan and we’ve got to keep working on it to execute it.

“When that happens I don’t know, a lot of that will be governed by IMG with the criteria they introduce. Once we know that we will then able to identify what we need to bring us up to speed.”

Having said that, Henderson raved about the current set-up behind the scenes at the Knights.

“We’ve got Super League standard playing facilities and training facilities, they are two of the boxes ticked.

“We’ve got the foundation up and running, a women’s team, PDRL and wheelchair teams coming along too. There are some really exciting projects off the field.

“For me we’ve got an operation in the backroom which wouldn’t look out of place in Super League.

“We’ve got two commercial staff, a couple of media and marketing staff, a general manager, finance director, an events manager.

“We’ve got people in the club shop dealing with ticketing and administration. It’s now down to the performance on the field and fine tuning things around the club operationally to make sure we would be ready for Super League.”