Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons give their reaction to IMG proposals

IMG’s proposals to ‘re-imagine’ rugby league hit clubs yesterday in a meeting at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Representatives from all 36 professional clubs in the three tiers were present as IMG produced a licensing system with five main features.

They are:

– Fandom (25%): encouraging clubs to attract more fans in stadia, both at home and digitally, and improve fan engagement, contributing to both club and central revenues.
– Performance (25%): incentivising clubs to perform on the field and drive fan awareness and engagement. Teams will be ranked between 1 and 36 based on where they finish in the leagues for the previous three seasons. Bonus points will be awarded to teams who win league and cup competitions in the previous season.
– Finances (25%): reflecting the success of fan engagement and business performance and rewarding sustainable investment, as well as diversified revenue streams and sound financial management.
– Stadium (15%): based on a number of factors, including facilities and utilisation, which add value to the fan and broadcast or digital viewer experience, and match or exceed competition from other sports and events.
– Catchment (10%): based on area population and the number of clubs in the area, with a view to maximising growth of the sport in the largest markets to generate new fan bases and incentivise investment.

There has been a strong positive reaction from the majority of clubs following the proposals, with Catalans Dragons’ Sporting Director Neil McIlroy and Wigan Warriors’ chief executive Kris Radlinski now having their say, live on Sky Sports last night.

McIlroy said: “I think it’s been received well, it’s exciting times for us as clubs.

“We need a few details ironed out from IMG, but there are lots of positives and we are looking forward to it.”

Radlinski was also upbeat: “There weren’t any surprises, there was a lot of information that we need to digest.

“We will reflect on that over the weekend. Everybody’s natural reaction is to see what it means for their club but then I swiftly changed my process to what does this mean for our sport.

“I commented how important the next decade is for rugby league and we need to make sure we are in a good place.

“IMG has come in and emphasised the need to improve our standards and that has to be a good thing for everybody.

“We will reflect over the coming weeks, it was a pretty positive meeting but we’ve still got questions.”

Radlinski believes IMG have sent rugby league in a different direction.

“Right from the start, the message from IMG was that we were spending too much time on the rugby and not enough on the product so we’vegot to think of our fans and their experience.

“I’m happy with seeing clubs improve what they are doing pre and post match. It’s not going to be easy but the guys from IMG know what they are doing. There are encouraging signs that we are going in the right direction.”