Super League could ditch automatic relegation as part of IMG overhaul

Clubs would instead elevated or dropped on the basis of their category status.

Rugby League is set to return to a form of licensing under proposals unveiled by global sports media giant IMG as part of its long-term ‘strategic partnership’ with the sport.

It will be the biggest shake-up in the sport since launching Super League in 1996.

St Helens celebrate their 2022 Super League title success. (Picture: Allan McKenzie/

Automatic promotion and relegation to and from Super League would be scrapped and clubs instead elevated on the basis of their category status, which will be determined by a number of on and off-field factors.

The proposals will only come into force at the end of next season if a majority of the 37 current professional clubs vote in favour at a meeting next month.

They include placing clubs in ‘A’ and ‘B’ categories, with the former guaranteed their places in Super League and the latter re-assessed annually, with the highest-ranking clubs filling the top flight’s remaining places.

RFL chairperson Simon Johnson said: “This is a significant day in terms of setting out a new path for the sport.

“It is very much a direction of travel in these top-line recommendations, with significant layers of detail still to be worked through.

“But these proposals contain both a recognition of the need to make significant changes to address a range of challenges facing the sport at all levels, and recommendations for those changes which have the potential to transform the approach, mood and reality of rugby league in the UK and beyond.”