Seven Betfred Super League clubs have been awarded Grade A status in the indicative phase of the new club grading process which effectively makes them immune from relegation from the start of the 2025 season.
The grades have been introduced as part of a strategy between Rugby League Commercial and sports media giants IMG to “reimagine” the sport and award points for five key factors including support base, performance, finances, facilities and community integration.
The indicative stage of the process gives clubs the chance to make improvements prior to the start of the 2025 season, at which point the identity of the 12 Super League clubs will be determined by the rankings, rather than solely next season’s on-field success.
The seven clubs given Grade A licences – which come with the assurance they cannot be relegated – are Leeds, who lead the way with a score of 17.49 out of the maximum available 20, Wigan, St Helens, Catalans Dragons, Warrington, Hull KR and Hull FC.
Indicative Club Gradings have been announced pic.twitter.com/1H2jp2gaHi
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) October 25, 2023
Based on the current rankings, Toulouse and Wakefield, who stand 10th and 11th respectively, would be promoted back into Super League at the expense of 13th-placed Castleford and newly-promoted London Broncos.
Castleford have indicated they intend to appeal their indicative grade based on confusion over a point relating to finance, which if accepted would move them into the top 12 at the expense of Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards.
The rankings are also a huge blow to London Broncos, who were promoted back to the top flight this month but rank a lowly 24th, meaning they are almost certain to be demoted at the end of next season, irrespective of their on-pitch performance.
Championship winners Featherstone, who lost to the Broncos in their play-off semi-final, also expressed concern over the grading criteria which appear to diminish their own long-held hopes of reaching the top flight.
Featherstone rank 15th on the current list with a score of 10.65, meaning only a prospective expansion of Super League to 14 teams would give them a realistic chance of promotion.
📊 𝙄𝙈𝙂 𝙂𝙍𝘼𝘿𝙄𝙉𝙂
Featherstone Rovers have been awarded a B rating in the indicative grading process. This has no bearing on our position in 2024.
— Featherstone Rovers (@FevRoversRLFC) October 25, 2023
In a wide-ranging statement, Featherstone questioned the weighting of some of the criteria towards what it called “future promises of potential” and said it was deflecting from deeper issues within the game.
“The leaders of the game, including key partners such as IMG, should urgently refocus its attentions on the marketing of the game rather than waste any more time on looking at structures and scoring systems,” said the statement.
“The excitement and jeopardy of our game is driven by what happens on the pitch, as has been admirably shown by London Broncos in their run to Super League.
“We have been promised that this would be at the forefront of the strategy under IMG – we remain unconvinced.”
RFL chief executive Tony Sutton 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.”