Rugby League clubs vote in new grading proposals that will end automatic Super League promotion and relegation

Club grading will determine who plays in Super League from 2025 with automatic promotion and relegation scrapped following a big vote today.
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Not all clubs were in favour, but the Rugby League Council gave 86 per cent backing to the proposal, which is the brainchild of marketing experts IMG as part of their ‘reimagining rugby league’ strategy.

At a meeting in Huddersfield, the recommendations were supported by a majority of clubs in each of the three professional competitions and received unanimous support from the community game.

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Catalans Dragons were not entitled to vote, but 10 of the other 11 Betfred Super League clubs voted in favour, with one abstention. Super League clubs had two votes, to one for the other divisions.

Castleford Tigers and other Super League clubs will have a new criteria to meet to play in Super League from 2025.Castleford Tigers and other Super League clubs will have a new criteria to meet to play in Super League from 2025.
Castleford Tigers and other Super League clubs will have a new criteria to meet to play in Super League from 2025.

Eight of the 13 Championship clubs voted in favour, with one abstention. As with the Dragons, French club Toulouse Olympique, were not entitled to vote.

Seven of the 11 League One clubs voted in favour, with one abstention.

The total number of votes in favour was 32, with seven opposed and three abstentions and RFL chairman Simon Johnson said: “This has been a highly significant day for the sport and I am proud of the vote of the council.

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“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.”

Johnson stressed there will be “no changes to the existing arrangements for promotion and relegation this season”.

He added: “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.

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“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 under way 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.”

Matt Dwyer, vice-president of sport management at 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.”