It doesn’t add up – North Wales Crusaders chief criticises rugby league’s new grading system
The prospect of Super League rugby returning to Wales has been made more distant under IMG’s new grading system, according to the chief executive of the only remaining senior club in the country.
North Wales Crusaders ranked rock-bottom of the 35-strong list of senior clubs which will be used to determine the make-up of the top-flight from the 2025 season onwards, scoring just 5.07 points from a possible 25.
In common with a number of others, Andy Moulsdale believes the ranking is not a “fair reflection” of the progress made by his club, who only missed out on promotion to the Championship last season when they lost the League One play-off final to Doncaster.
It also paints a bleak picture for prospective expansion, with Wales’ only other senior club, West Wales Raiders, withdrawing from the league after the 2022 season, and no Welsh club having featured in the top two divisions of the domestic game for almost a decade.
Moulsdale told the PA news agency: “We all know what we’ve got to work towards and I’m the first to admit there are certainly some pillars we need to improve on, but some of it doesn’t add up.
“For what we’ve given back to the sport, I don’t think it’s a fair reflection. We reached the final last season and finished third in the two years previously. We’ve also set up a foundation that runs a women’s and three wheelchair teams.
“These gradings make it increasingly harder for League One teams to reach Super League. We’re the only professional club in Wales and our short-term goal is to keep a Welsh team going, and start to make progress rather than just existing.”
Super League arrived in Wales in 2009 when Celtic Crusaders, effectively the existing club’s previous incarnation, were granted a top-flight licence and lasted three seasons – the latter two as simply Crusaders – before falling into financial problems and failing to re-apply for a licence in 2012.
North Wales have since made quiet progress at the third-tier level, but the stark reality of elevating teams from expansion areas has been made plain by the rankings, which were ostensibly set up, at least in part, to encourage just that.
London Broncos languish in 24th place and face the prospect of a single top-flight campaign irrespective of their on-pitch performances next season, while Midlands Hurricanes and Cornwall occupy the two places immediately above North Wales.
“There’s no doubt it makes things more difficult for us,” added Moulsdale. “The scoring is inevitably weighted towards Super League clubs, because finances and fandom are obviously going to be bigger if you’re in the top division.
“We’ve lost the likes of West Wales and London Skolars in recent seasons, and unless you have someone who can come straight in and invest a lot of money, the prospects (for expansion teams) are extremely tough.”
Moulsdale is one of a number of chiefs who believe their clubs were incorrectly graded, and that their true score could have helped them at least avoid the negative connotations of being in bottom place.
But he conceded: “The IMG gradings make you take a step back and realise it’s not all about what happens on the pitch any more. Whether you agree with it or not, that’s the way it is, and we just have to try to improve in any way we can.”
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