'Controversial change' coming after IMG deal says York City Knights chairman

·3-min read
York City Knights chairman Clint Goodchild. Picture: Craig Hawkhead
York City Knights chairman Clint Goodchild. Picture: Craig Hawkhead

YORK City Knights chairman Clint Goodchild believes that “controversial changes” are coming to rugby league from 2024 after the sport's deal with IMG.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) and Super League last week agreed a 12-year partnership with management company IMG to maximise the game's commercial value.

IMG are set to propose a restructuring of rugby league's three professional tiers after a forthcoming full competition review and, speaking to inews, they said “analysing the merits of promotion, relegation and licensing will form part of the project”.

Prior to the IMG deal, trade media outlets reported that a proposal for two divisions of 10 teams had been tabled, likely cutting adrift 16 of the sport's 36 clubs.

Speaking about the future of the game, given that the existing TV deal ends at the end of next year, Goodchild said: "I have a feeling that in 2024 there’s going to be some change.

"I’m sure that there will be some controversial changes made but change needs to come.

“If there’s a situation where they decide to compress and condense the leagues, and there’s talk of having less teams in each competition, if you’re one of those teams that stays in, I think that’s a very positive situation.

“If you’re one of the teams that misses out, it’s probably going to be gut-wrenching.

“It’s an evolution of what we’ve got and it’s probably time that it takes place."

When asked about the specific issue of franchising and the removal of promotion and relegation, Goodchild replied: “I think if we start talking about ‘What could happen if…’ then we set ourselves up to look like fools.

“The important thing right now is that IMG are going to come in and do their due diligence that needs to take place over the next two years.

“I think that it’s unlikely that there will be a direct jump to the removal of promotion and relegation from 2024.

“But if they see that as the right way to go, I’m going to stick by my word and say that they’re the experts.”

Since 2018, York have established themselves as one of the Betfred Championship's top sides, having finished third in 2019, a position they currently occupy this year.

The Knights also boast one of the league's most attractive grounds, in the LNER Community Stadium, to go alongside a modern training ground at York St John University. The club's Ladies side are also recognised as among the three best in the women's game.

“We’ve got to continue to improve but I like our position overall - I wouldn’t have bought the club if I didn’t think that," said Goodchild, who purchased the club in January, when quizzed about York's placing in a potential restructure.

“We’ve got a large economy at our door, we’ve got a large catchment area for young talent, we’ve got brand-new facilities and men’s and women’s teams on the rise.

“I think we’ve positioned ourselves quite well.”

Goodchild has also stressed the impressive track record of IMG, a company he has worked with before as a consultant through its IMG Academy division.

“Everywhere they’ve gone they’ve had success, whether it be the UFC, American college football, golf, European basketball, they’ve achieved so much and they can bring a formula to our game," he enthused.

“That will bring results commercially and that will really add up to a better product for our fanbase and our growth.”

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