The Rugby League Council, the top rugby body consisting of all three UK professional competitions, has adopted the Club Grading initiative recommended by long-term partner IMG.
Talks were held in Huddersfield, where in 1895 the first rugby code was formed as the Northern Union. The IMG recommendation was supported unanimously by all parties involved.
In terms of the vote distribution, 10 of the 11 Betfred Super League clubs, eight out of the 13 Betfred Championship clubs, and seven out of the 11 Betfred League One clubs have voted for, bringing the total number of votes for the proposal to 32 and against – to seven.
Matt Dwyer, Vice President of Sport Management of IMG Media, said: “We greatly appreciate all the clubs’ input and support during this process.
“While there is naturally no one set of recommendations that will suit everyone, we strongly believe that club grading, as part of the wider Reimagining Rugby League strategy, is essential to ensure sustainable growth of the game as a whole, and are pleased to see that such a strong majority of clubs agree.
“This is a positive milestone for the future of the sport and we are excited to continue driving progression in other areas over the coming months, including through our work with Seven League on digital transformation and ‘160over90’ on branding.”
Taking into consideration the Rugby Council’s vote weighting system that distributes an equal weight for Super League and Championship/League One clubs, the results came back as 86% for and 14% against.
Simon Johnson, the Chair of the Rugby Football League and a Board member of Rugby League Commercial, added: “This has been a highly significant day for the sport and I am proud of the vote of the Council today.
“Our clubs were unanimous in supporting the 12-year strategic partnership with IMG when it was proposed in 2022, and have now given strong support for the Club Grading recommendation which is crucial in allowing the sport to grow and fulfil its potential – on the domestic and international stage.
“We thank the team at IMG for the detailed and dedicated work that underpinned this recommendation. Our own teams at the RFL and RL Commercial will continue to work with IMG and other parts of the Endeavor organisation, notably Seven League and 160over90, to advance the other six recommendations included in Reimagining Rugby League.
“In terms of Club Grading, it is important to stress again that there will be no changes to the existing arrangements for promotion and relegation this season.
“In the closing stages of the season this autumn, illustrative gradings for all clubs will be published, providing all with a clear idea of where they stand, with 12 months until the gradings are updated to determine membership of the top tier competition in 2025.
“We will also continue to work with clubs to develop the Minimum Standards that will sit alongside the Grading Criteria and continue to consult with Council.
“It is also important to reinforce that this outcome, whilst being crucial to the future growth of the sport, is only the first step.
“Work is currently underway to further develop the domestic calendar for 2024, deliver certainty to the international calendar and continue the digital transformation within Rugby League that will continue to lay the foundations for a greater return from the sport’s assets in the future.”