IMG's message to London Broncos after Super League new boys receive grading blow
The Broncos have pulled up a seat at the top table thanks to a remarkable late-season run that culminated in a stunning victory over Toulouse Olympique in the recent Championship Grand Final.
However, the capital club face an immediate return to the second tier regardless of how they perform on the field in 2024.
London have been ranked 24th in the indicative phase of rugby league's new grading system, which will come into effect from the end of next year in place of automatic promotion and relegation.
Matt Dwyer, IMG's vice president of Sports Management, has told the Broncos and the rest of the clubs currently outside the top 12 that it is up to them to catch up.
Asked whether it was impossible for London to stay up next year, Dwyer replied: "It's difficult to answer because it depends on what the other clubs do.
"We can all see their current grading level is towards the bottom of the piece. There's obviously a lot of work to be done there.
"Without going into specifics, it's pretty broad, so across all categories London need to be improving. There's plenty of room for them to improve.
"We're spending a lot of time focusing on the B’s but the real message we want to get across is that the purpose of grading was to create as many a-grade clubs as possible.
"What we're looking for here is for long-term growth towards being category A clubs. If London has long-term aspirations to do that, they have to improve across the metrics.
"I would suggest that in 2024 they would be wanting to perform as well as they can to move along that path to being a category A club and that's what we're aiming for."
Salford Red Devils, Huddersfield Giants and Leigh Leopards are the other Grade B clubs currently occupying a place in the top tier, with Leeds Rhinos, Hull KR and Hull FC among the seven highest-ranked organisations.
"This is not about B6 or B7 – it's about everyone trying to move towards that category A level," added Dwyer.
"When we did our first run through of this, we thought there'd be four or five A clubs and we've ended up with seven. We just need everyone else to come with us."
IMG entered a 12-year strategic partnership with rugby league's powerbrokers last year and quickly identified London as a 'sleeping giant'.
The global sports management company made success in the capital a top priority as they set about transforming the game’s long-term prospects but their deep dive into the Broncos has shown they are some way off becoming a rugby league powerhouse.
Although the sport has tried and failed to create a strong presence in London before, IMG will not give up in light of the recent findings.
"The basis for identifying London as a key area was for a couple of reasons," said Dwyer.
"One, for its demographic – it's the largest market we have in the country. But interest and participation is quite high in London, so it still has the base that should make it a core market going forward.
"Nothing has changed from that perspective. All that has been identified is the challenge we have to grow the market based off that score for London.
"It's a hard market to crack, something we've tried to crack for a long time and it's really the same as what I said 12 months ago – it has the right ingredients to be a large market for the sport.
"But we have to put those ingredients together and bake the cake, for want of a better phrase.
"They'll benefit from a year in Super League where they should be highly motivated to perform the best they can. Many of the scores are done over a three-year period and the score they get in 2024 is incredibly important going forward."
Based on the provisional ratings, seven sides are guaranteed to be in Super League in 2025 alongside the highest-ranked Grade B clubs.
The competition is set to continue with 12 teams but expansion is likely once a dozen clubs reach the 15-point threshold for Grade A status.
"Objective one is to have 12 category A clubs and objective two is to expand the size of the league," said Dwyer.
"It probably has accelerated things a bit because we're closer to having 12 category A clubs than we thought we would be.
"Some of the improvements we've seen from clubs over the last 12 months show that some clubs aren't far below those seven category A clubs, too, and it's not unreasonable for them to have category A status in the near future."