A 20-point plan, which underscores IMG’s proposals to ‘re-imagine’ Rugby League, has been unveiled at a meeting in Huddersfield on Thursday.
Five factors – ‘fandom’, performances, finances, stadium and catchment – will comprise a grading system that will ultimately determine the fate of each club from the 2025 season onwards.
As expected, automatic promotion and relegation will be axed, with on-field performance assessed over three seasons, forming just one quarter of the total criteria.
Clubs will be graded in one of three tiers – A, B and C – with grade A clubs automatically elevated to the top-flight and immune to relegation, with the remaining places awarded to the best-scoring grade B clubs. All scores will be reassessed annually.
Frank Slevin, the chairperson of RL Commercial, said: “After the overwhelming support provided by clubs to the Reimagining Rugby League recommendations when they were first presented last September, the clubs have now been provided with full details of the grading process which is an important part of those proposals.
“An immense amount of work has been done by IMG, as part of their long-term strategic partnership with Rugby League, to produce a blueprint which breaks new ground for British sport.
“It is important the clubs now have time to consider the proposals, and to provide feedback, in a series of meetings that have been arranged between now and the special general meeting of clubs next month.”
All senior clubs will be given time to assess the proposals before voting on April 19. If passed, clubs will receive dummy gradings at the conclusion of the current season, before learning their official rankings shortly before the end of the 2024 campaign.
Three of the five factors – ‘fandom’, which covers physical attendance and digital engagement, performance and finances – will be prioritised, with five points available in each category.
The remaining two categories – stadium, which is based on a number of factors including facilities and utilisation, and catchment, based on area population and the number of clubs in the area, will offer three and two points respectively.
Matt Dwyer, IMG’s vice-president of sport management, said: “Our goal with the proposed criteria was to establish an objective, easily measurable and reliable framework that will drive long-term, sustainable growth for individual clubs and the sport as a whole.
“We, RL Commercial and the RFL believe improvement in each of these areas is possible for all clubs over time and is vital to transforming and future-proofing rugby league.”