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Leeds Rhinos top IMG’s first Super League grading system

Featured image credit: Mtaylor848/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED/Edited for size

Seven top-tier Super League clubs have received Grade A status in the indicative phase of a new process being introduced by the IMG agency.

Leeds Rhinos top the list with a score of 17.49, with Wigan Warriors (16.87), St Helens (16.78), Catalans Dragons (16.73), Warrington Wolves (15.75), Hull KR (15.52) and Hull FC (15.05) the other teams to achieve Grade A status.

The remaining Super League teams (Salford Red Devils, Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity, Leigh Leopards and Castleford Tigers) received Grade B ratings. Championship team Toulouse Olympique was the highest-performing club outside the Super League, with its score of 12.97 leaving it 10th in the indicative rankings.

Castleford was the lowest-ranked Super League club, placing 13th in the indicative rankings. The Rugby Football League (RFL) noted that Castleford submitted information after the data submission deadline, and this will be reviewed and considered given the tight scoring margins around the 12th position in the rankings.

The RFL will consider Castleford’s appeal in the coming days. The club could move ahead of Leigh Leopards into 12th if its appeal is successful.

The RFL published the finer details of the grading system back in July. Clubs who receive 15 points or more will receive a Grade A licence and be automatically admitted to the Super League and be exempt from relegation. They will be joined by the highest-rated Grade B clubs, with Grade C teams to be barred from the Super League.

The grading criteria will define how Super League, Championship and League One clubs are assessed from 2025. The criteria cover five areas: stadiums, fandom, performance, finances and community.

The stadium grading accounts for 15% of the overall weighting, with fandom, performance and finance each accounting for 25% and community covering the remaining 10%.

Membership of the 2025 Super League season will be determined by the top 12 teams in the 2024 rankings, which will be announced at the end of the 2024 campaign. The RFL said the main purpose of the indicative grading process is to give clubs an indication of their strengths and weaknesses, and the areas they need to improve to increase their score in 2024.

Wakefield Trinity, which placed 11th in the rankings, will play in the Championship next season after finishing bottom of Super League in 2023. Wakefield will be replaced by London Broncos, which defeated Toulouse in the Championship play-off final.

Although London will play in the Super League in 2024, the club has placed 24th in the indicative IMG rankings. A similar score next year would result in demotion back to the Championship, irrespective of where the club finished in the Super League.

Tony Sutton, RFL chief executive, said: “Rugby league embarked on a bold journey with the launch of the strategic partnership with IMG in May 2022, and 18 months into that journey, the publication of these indicative club gradings is a highly significant step. The sport has had to examine itself more closely than ever, at all levels – whether in terms of our central governance, or for our clubs in assessing all areas of their off-field performance. 

“The results are heartening, as seven of our clubs already reach the A Grade by reaching the score IMG set as the benchmark, and which we believe should be the level clubs need to achieve in order to confirm their place in our elite competition – and another 17 have earned a B Grade and now know exactly what they need to do to reach the higher level. 

“Congratulations are due to the A Grade clubs, although I know they will not be resting on their laurels as the key to the grading process is that it is dynamic and requires clubs to maintain standards. All clubs also deserve recognition for the positive way in which they have engaged in this process, all with the aim of raising the standards of rugby league – and of reimagining the sport.”