Rugby Trade Directory

Super League and RFL announce strategic partner

Super League and The Rugby Football League (RFL) have announced a deal with IMG which will see the agency work with the organisations as a strategic partner over the next 12 years.

IMG has not acquired any commercial assets or media rights to rugby league competitions, but will be a central player in the new commercial arm, allowing the RFL and SLE to focus on their roles as governing bodies for the sport.

Several subsidiaries of IMG’s global business will be involved. Digital agency Seven League has been tasked with overseeing a digital transformation for rugby league, while cultural marketing agency 160over90 will be responsible for delivering a fresh brand strategy, and Endeavor Streaming will enact a new streaming strategy.

All of that is scheduled for the “first phase” of the work, IMG said in a statement, while a second phase will see IMG developing new data-driven product opportunities, providing full data collection across the sport’s competitions and establishing new betting products and streaming rights arrangements through its sports betting division IMG Arena.

The agency opened a new office in Leeds, where the RFL has its headquarters, earlier this year. 

IMG’s previous involvements in rugby league include being selected to produce Channel 4’s coverage of the Super League for the next two years, the first free-to-air broadcasts of the competition in the UK in its 26-year history. 

It also sold the international broadcast rights to the 2013 and 2017 editions of the Rugby League World Cup.

Adam Kelly, co-president of media and events at IMG, said: “Rugby league is loved for its thrilling, fast-paced action and we see tremendous potential to further energise the sport and its competitions in the UK, engage with fans on a deeper level and drive long-term growth.

“We are excited to embark on this long-term partnership with the RFL and Super League and look forward to utilising IMG and Endeavor’s unparalleled expertise, experience and global network to create and add value for rugby league and its commercial partners.”

Simon Johnson, chair of the RFL, added: “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.”

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