Smaller clubs shouldn’t be denied earned place at rugby league’s top table

·3-min read
South Leeds Stadium Credit: Alamy
South Leeds Stadium Credit: Alamy

Hunslet were one of the few clubs to vote against the recent proposals tabled by IMG to introduce a new grading criteria for participation in Super League.

It will see the removal of automatic promotion and relegation, with clubs instead graded against five pillars of criteria, including fandom, facilities and community.

Scroll to continue with content

Clubs who earn a Category A grading will be guaranteed a spot in Super League, with the remaining spots taking up by the highest ranked Category B clubs.

Although on-field performance will still form part of the grading, there remain concerns about just how effective this will be and there were contradictions ahead of the vote as to whether we could see a situation where the Championship Grand Final winners are denied promotion.

The ‘sport by spreadsheet’ argument was one of many voiced by Keighley, the most outspoken club against the plans.

But they weren’t alone, as at least a further five clubs opted to vote against the plans – albeit Featherstone confirmed they weren’t necessarily against grading, but wanted assurances over the on-field element.

Some fans too have spoken out about the removal of automatic promotion and relegation, which creates the perception that on-field performance doesn’t matter as much.

It is clear that those from smaller areas, with less access to bigger commercial revenue and a smaller catchment area, will be at a disadvantage in the long-term as Super League tries to find a balance between the long-standing fabric of rugby league and the need to grow revenues and audience in the modern sports business environment.

“Earn promotion by on-field efforts, not because they come from a community of a certain size”

Fan-owned Hunslet revealed that following their vote against IMG proposals, a fan in Scotland took out a membership in support of their stance.

Intrigued by the interest from someone so far afield, Finance Director Phil Hodgson contacted him to thank him for his subscription, and to establish the Hunslet connection. 

“Why Hunslet? I almost always favour the underdog and it was Hunslet’s decision to vote against some aspects of the IMG proposals for an overhaul of Rugby League which grabbed my attention,” Bob explained.

“The second tier of Irish football, the Championship, has just been won by Loughgall, a team from a village of 250 people. Next season they will be facing Linfield, Glentoran and all the rest. They have earned their promotion solely by their on-field efforts – not because they come from a community of a certain size.

“I am not one for adopting a ‘resistance to change’ attitude just as a matter of course. Quite the opposite. I’m all for bright ideas which aim to improve Rugby League (or any other sport) but I think there has to be a balance.”

Hodgson said: “It was nice to receive the message of support, especially when the formal vote didn’t go our way.

“As a club we stuck to what we believed was in the best interest of the game, whilst accepting that others did what they felt was right.  

“We now await further details on the grading criteria and will ensure we are in a strong position to move forward.

“We are pleased to welcome Bob to the Hunslet family. He is certainly jumping in with both feet and has also joined the Weekly Draw, as well gifting two season tickets to supporters who may be struggling financially to attend games. And he is also proudly promoting the famous myrtle, white and flame north of the border.”

More reaction to the IMG vote

The worst thing about the IMG proposals being passed

Cumbrian club reveal reasons for voting against IMG proposals

‘I hope IMG take note!’ Frustration over England withdrawals as RFL chairman defends ‘legitimate’ injuries

Good or bad: What clubs have said following the IMG vote

Featherstone reveal only sticking point that caused them to vote against IMG proposals

The article Smaller clubs shouldn’t be denied earned place at rugby league’s top table appeared first on