Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington gives honest verdict of state of rugby league and IMG

LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington believes that rugby league is in “pretty good shape” following IMG’s takeover of the sport.

Back in May 2022, rugby league struck up a 12-year deal with marketing giants, IMG, in a bid to ‘re-imagine’ the sport after a number of years in the doldrums.

Since then, IMG has brokered numerous TV deals as well as sponsorship contracts, bringing rugby league more and more into the public eye.

For Hetherington, who has been one of IMG’s biggest backers since they became a major stakeholder, he believes the sport is in a good position from which to grow after a number of years of struggle.

“I think we’re on the verge of some significant progress,” Hetherington said whilst on Sky Sports’ The Bench podcast.

“I think the changes, particularly in the last few years, the constitution of the game is now much better. I think we’ve got a really competitive Super League, a really competitive Championship.

“All clubs are challenged financially, but I think the governance of the game is in pretty good shape.

“I think with IMG as a major partner now for the next 12 years, or at least 12 years, we’ve got some significant opportunities.”

Hetherington also pointed to the success that is currently being enjoyed by the NRL, which achieved its greatest ever financial success at the end of the 2023 season.

“I think the progress that’s been made in the southern hemisphere as well – they’re now looking beyond Australia and New Zealand, they’re looking at the United States of America, a country that we’ve always believed has got huge potential for rugby league and they’re serious about it as well.

“I think we need to be part of that strategy, that plan and we need to play our part even though the NRL is a significantly bigger competition than us.”

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