11 May 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

The Rugby Football League (RFL) and Super League Europe have announced a 12-year strategic partnership with IMG, the sports, events, media and fashion company, owned by American holding company Endeavor.

As part of the agreement, IMG has announced its intention to reimagine rugby league and its competitions in the UK. The agreement follows the recent decision for the RFL and Super League to realign and form a new joint venture company.

IMG has assembled a team of experts across its media business and the Endeavor network to work with the newly combined entity on strategically repositioning the sport to maximise its commercial potential for long-term growth, build deeper relationships with fans and attract new audiences.

IMG will initially focus on competition restructuring, content production and innovation, domestic and international distribution of media rights, digital transformation powered by IMG’s digital sports arm Seven League, brand strategy delivered by Endeavor’s marketing agency 160over90, and streaming through Endeavor’s OTT platform Endeavor Streaming. 

As part of a second phase of work, IMG will also provide data collection and data-driven product development, including sports betting products and streaming rights via its sports data and technology business IMG ARENA.

Simon Johnson, Chair of the Rugby Football League, said, “In recent years, an immense amount of work has gone on, in initially protecting the sport through the pandemic and then setting it on a course for real growth. The Governance re-alignment was key and a prerequisite to attracting a partnership such as this. IMG is a global giant in the sports and entertainment industry and this alliance is fantastically exciting for our future. Coupled with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups which are set for the Autumn on home soil, I have no doubt that 2022 will now prove to be a watershed year in the history of rugby league - and this announcement will be the keystone in future success.”   

Ken Davy, Chair of Super League, added, "Over the last 18 months, Super League has focused on analysing and defining the future of the competition, with two key elements being identified. These were to grow commercial revenues in a realignment with the RFL and the other was to find a strategic partner.

"We consulted widely on the strategic partner to find someone who bought into our vision for the Super League competition and the sport of rugby league. In IMG we have a world-renowned partner that has all the requisite strengths to ensure the sport’s continued growth and development."

In addition to its well-established broadcast partnerships which the sport has with the BBC and Sky, Betfred Super League is currently being shown live on free-to-air television for the first time in its 26-year history, after Channel 4 secured a deal to show ten live matches and Grand Final highlights for the next two years and appointed IMG to produce its coverage.