The Rugby Football League (RFL), the governing body for rugby league in England, and the domestic top-tier Super League have today (May 10) announced a 12-year strategic partnership with Endeavor-owned international sports marketing agency IMG to “reimagine” the sport 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.

As part of the long-term tie-up, 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 maximize its commercial potential for long-term growth, build deeper relationships with fans and attract new audiences.”

The agency 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 cultural marketing agency 160over90, and streaming through Endeavor’s over-the-top 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.

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

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

To complement the domestic broadcast partnerships which the sport has with public service broadcaster the BBC and pay-TV giant Sky, the 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 10 live matches and Grand Final highlights for the next two years and appointed IMG to produce its coverage.

IMG will be working with the sport's Strategic Working Group, which was specifically tasked with identifying the right partnership. The group is made up of representatives from the RFL and Super League Europe and has been working closely with IMG over recent months.

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 analyzing 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 as a whole. In IMG we have a world-renowned partner that has all the requisite strengths to ensure the sport’s continued growth and development."