RFL Championship

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Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2022 RFL Championship
Betfred Championship logo.jpg
SportRugby league
Founded2003; 19 years ago (2003)
No. of teams14
Country England
Most recent
ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Olympique
(1st title)
Most titlesLeigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
(4 titles)
TV partner(s)
Level on pyramid2
Promotion toSuper League
Relegation toLeague 1
Domestic cup(s)Challenge Cup
1895 Cup
Official websiteChampionship

The Championship, known as the Betfred Championship for sponsorship reasons, is a professional rugby league competition.[2] It is the second-tier competition organised by the Rugby Football League, the governing body for the sport in England, and consists of 14 teams, with promotion to the Super League and relegation to the third-tier competition, League 1. The league announced a two-year sponsorship deal with the bookmaking company Betfred ahead of the 2018 season. The current champions are Toulouse Olympique, winners of the 2021 season after beating Featherstone Rovers in the Million Pound Game to win promotion to Super League 2022.

From 2003 to 2009, the competition was known as National League One.


1902–1973: Establishment and regular competition[edit]

Second division rugby league competitions have been played at various times since 1902, and have been in place annually since 1973. When Super League began in 1996, the second division continued to operate a system of promotion and relegation with the new competition. In 1999, the second-tier competition below the Super League was renamed the Northern Ford Premiership (NFP) when Northern Ford Dealers acquired the naming rights.

2002–2008: National Leagues[edit]

In 2003, the NFP was re-organised into National Leagues One and Two. Teams that finished in the top ten league positions of the 2002 Northern Ford Premiership joined National League One and the bottom eight joined National League Two. They were joined by London Skolars from the Rugby League Conference, who entered National League Two, and York City Knights, who replaced the defunct York Wasps (who had folded mid-season in 2002) and also joined National League Two in 2003, creating two ten-team leagues which operated a system of promotion and relegation between themselves while also maintaining the promotion and relegation between National League One and Super League. At the same time, National League Three was created with teams from the Rugby League Conference and from the British Amateur Rugby League Association amateur leagues. It was intended that there would be promotion and relegation between National League Two and National League Three when League Three became more established, however this never eventuated.

2009–2014: Championship[edit]

In 2009 Super League was expanded to 14 teams, with two additional teams being promoted from National League One. In turn, two additional teams were promoted from National League Two to National League One at the end of the 2008 season, reducing the number of teams in National League Two to 10. National Leagues One and Two were then rebranded as the Championship and Championship 1 respectively, with the change being implemented in time for the 2009 season. Championship 1 was later rebranded to League 1. During this period, a system of licensing was put in place which meant there was no automatic system of promotion and relegation between the Championship and Super League, although promotion and relegation continued between the Championship and League 1. Widnes Vikings were promoted to Super League from the Championship via the licensing system in 2011.

The record crowd for a club game at this level of competition was set in 2017 at KCOM Craven Park for the opening fixture of the season between Hull Kingston Rovers and Bradford Bulls with Rovers winning 54–24 in front of a crowd of 8,817. The crowd record for regular season attendance was also broken in 2008 with an average of 2,205 spectators at each game.

2015–2018: Super 8s[edit]

In 2013, Super League clubs agreed to reduce the number of clubs in the competition to 12 and return to an amended system of promotion and relegation with a 12-club Championship competition. These changes came into effect for the 2015 season.[3]

Under the amended structure, the 12 Super League and 12 Championship clubs play a regular season of 23 rounds, including a Magic Weekend for both divisions. Following the conclusion of their regular league seasons, the 24 clubs then compete in a play-off series where they split into 3 divisions of 8 based upon league position:[4]

  • The bottom 4 Super League clubs and the top 4 Championship clubs compete in The Qualifiers. They play each other once (either home or away) to determine which four of the clubs will compete in Super League the following year.
  • The remaining (bottom 8) Championship clubs compete for the Championship Shield and to avoid relegation to League 1. Two clubs will be relegated each year.

2019–onwards: Return of playoffs[edit]

On 14 September 2018, an EGM was called to discuss the future of the sport and a change in structure, as the clubs were in favour of scrapping the Super 8s in favour of a more conventional structure. Two proposals were put forward: one by Super League and one by the Championship and League 1;

Super League proposal: The Super League proposed staying with 12 teams who play each other home and away plus Magic Weekend and 6 loop fixtures (29 games). They also proposed a return to a top-5 playoff and the 12th placed team being relegated.

Championship & League 1 proposal: The alternative proposal was that Super League would expand to 14 clubs playing 29 games ending with a top-5 playoff. The team finishing 14th would be relegated and 13th would play 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the Championship in a relegation playoff.

After a vote, the Super League proposal was voted through was implemented for the 2019 season. The Championship clubs then voted for a top 5 playoff being used to decide which team will be promoted to Super League.


Championship clubs
Colours Club Established Location Stadium Capacity*
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders 1875 Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria Craven Park 3,000
Batley colours.svg Batley Bulldogs 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire Mount Pleasant 7,500
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire Odsal Stadium 22,739
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury Rams 1898 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire Crown Flatt 5,800
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 1902 Featherstone, West Yorkshire Post Office Road 8,000
Faxcolours.svg Halifax Panthers 1873 Halifax, West Yorkshire The Shay 14,000
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 1878 Leigh, Greater Manchester Leigh Sports Village 12,005
Broncoscolours.png London Broncos 1980 Wimbledon, London Plough Lane 9,215
Gthundercolours.svg Newcastle Thunder 1999 Newcastle, Tyne and Wear Kingston Park 10,200
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles 1984 Sheffield, South Yorkshire Olympic Legacy Park 3,000
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven 1948 Whitehaven, Cumbria Recreation Ground 7,500
Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings 1875 Widnes, Cheshire Halton Stadium 13,500
Workingtoncolours.svg Workington Town 1945 Workington, Cumbria Derwent Park 10,000
Sunshine Coast Colours.svg York City Knights 2002 York, North Yorkshire York Community Stadium 8,008
  • Seat capacity for other sports, concerts and events may differ.


Regular season[edit]

The 14 teams compete in the Championship. They play each other once home and away interrupted by the Summer Bash. Two points are awarded for a win and one for a draw. At the end of the season the bottom two teams are relegated and the top 5 take part in the playoffs.

Summer Bash[edit]

In 2015 the Championship staged its own Magic Weekend held at Bloomfield Road where all 14 Championship clubs play an extra round usually against a rival.[5]

Stadium Location Country Highest attendance Average attendance
Bloomfield Road Blackpool England 8,650 7,000


The current play-off system was previously used between 2003 and 2006 and is used by the Super League.


The champions of the Championship, and the team promoted to the Super League (except during the licensing period), is determined by a playoff series at the end of the regular season. The team at the top of the league table at the end of regular season is awarded the Championship Leaders' Shield. This has been the case for all but the four seasons of the Super 8s era where the league leaders were declared champions and promotion was determined by The Qualifiers.

Year Champions Promoted Relegated
2003 Redscolours.svg Salford Redscolours.svg Salford Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury
2004 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Leigh colours.svg Leigh Cougscolours.svg Keighley
2005 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Castleford colours.svg Castleford Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone
2006 HKRcolours.svg Hull KR HKRcolours.svg Hull KR Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham
Balmain colours.svg York
2007 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Castleford colours.svg Castleford Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
2008 Redscolours.svg Salford Redscolours.svg Salford
Cruscolours.svg Crusaders
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury
2009 Barrowcolours.svg Barrow No Promotion due to licensing Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Gthundercolours.svg Newcastle
2010 Faxcolours.svg Halifax Cougscolours.svg Keighley
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
2011 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Widnes colours.svg Widnes Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse
2012 Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield No Promotion due to licensing No Relegation
2013 Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Balmain colours.svg York
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet
2014 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale,
NWCrucolours.png North Wales
Cougscolours.svg Keighley
2015 Leigh colours.svg Leigh None Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet
2016 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Leigh colours.svg Leigh Workingtoncolours.svg Workington
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
2017 HKRcolours.svg Hull KR HKRcolours.svg Hull KR Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham
Bullscolours.svg Bradford
2018 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Broncoscolours.png London No Relegation
2019 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale
2020 none Leigh colours.svg Leigh No Relegation
2021 ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton


Club Wins Winning years
1 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 4 2004, 2014, 2015, 2016
2 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 2 2003, 2008
3 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 2 2005, 2007
4 Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles 2 2012, 2013
5 HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers 2 2006, 2017
6 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Wolfpack 2 2018, 2019
7 Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders 1 2009
8 Faxcolours.svg Halifax Panthers 1 2010
9 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 1 2011
10 ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Olympique 1 2021

League Leaders[edit]

Since the formation of the Championship in 2003, the team finishing top of the league have been awarded the Championship Leaders' Shield before entering the playoffs to decide the Champions. Between 2015 and 2018 the League Leaders were awarded before The Qualifiers began however from 2019 the league reverted to a playoff series and the shield was awarded before the playoffs again.

Shield winners[edit]

Year League leaders Pts Runners up Pts
2003 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 30 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 30
2004 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 28 Haven colours.svg Whitehaven 28
2005 Haven colours.svg Whitehaven 32 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 30
2006 HKRcolours.svg Hull KR 32 Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings 28
2007 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 51 Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings 50
2008 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 44 Cruscolours.svg Celtic Crusaders 40
2009 Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders 44 Faxcolours.svg Halifax 43
2010 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 56 Faxcolours.svg Halifax 50
2011 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 56 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 53
2012 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 47 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 44
2013 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 70 Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles 67
2014 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 76 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 61
2015 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 43 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 37
2016 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 43 Broncoscolours.png London Broncos 34
2017 HKRcolours.svg Hull KR 39 Broncoscolours.png London Broncos 37
2018 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Wolfpack 41 Broncoscolours.png London Broncos 33
2019 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Wolfpack 52 ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Olympique 47
2020 Competition abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Olympique 100.00a Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 90.48a
  • a: Shield winners decided by win percentage rather than points


Club Wins Winning years
1 Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 4 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
1 Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 4 2004, 2014, 2015, 2016
3 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 2 2004, 2008
3 HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers 2 2006, 2017
3 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto Wolfpack 2 2018, 2019
6 Haven colours.svg Whitehaven 1 2005
6 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 1 2007
6 Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders 1 2009
6 ToulouseRLcolours.png Toulouse Olympique 1 2021


The Championship has been sponsored four times since its inception in 2003. Betfred are the current title sponsor.

The title sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. There have been seven different title sponsors since the league's formation:

Period Sponsor Name
2003–2008 Nuffield LHF Healthplan National League 1
2009–2012 Co-operative Group Co-operative Championship
2013–2017 Kingstone Press Cider Kingstone Press Championship
2018–2021 Betfred Betfred Championship

The official rugby ball supplier is Steeden.[6]


Period Broadcaster
2008–2011 Sky Sports
Premier Sports
2012–2013 Premier Sports
2014 Sky Sports
(Grand Final Only)
2015–2021 Sky Sports
2022– Premier Sports


Sky Sports and Premier Sports shared the TV rights to the Championship between 2008 and 2012. After Sky only showed the Championship and Championship 1 Grand Finals while games were broadcast on Premier Sports until 2013. There was no TV coverage on the Championship in 2014. In 2015 Sky Sports won the rights to show the Championship including The Summer Bash, Championship Shield and The Qualifiers in a seven-year deal.

A two-year broadcast deal with Premier Sports for 2022 and 2023 was signed at the end of 2021. Premier will show a live match every Monday as well as all seven matches from the Summer Bash. The deal also includes the broadcasting rights to play-off matches and the Million Pound Game.[7]


Regional radio stations have coverage of the Championship clubs but mostly only cover Super League clubs in the same area and give updates of Championship scores and results.


Reserve League[edit]

In 2014 and 2015 Super League clubs were unhappy with the Dual registration system and wanted to form an Under 23 reserve leagues between the Under 19s and 1st team. Wigan, Warrington and St Helens were the first teams to propose the return of the reserve league where players could move from the under 19s and play with professional players before playing in the 1st team. A reserve league was set up in 2016 with a mixture of Super League, Championship and League 1 teams.

Dual registration[edit]

Clubs in both the Super League and the Championships benefit from the new dual registration system which was introduced for the 2013 season.[8] The new system is intended to complement the existing player loan system.

Dual registration refers to an arrangement between clubs whereby a player continues to be registered to his current Super League club and is also registered to play for a club in the Championship. The system is aimed at young Super League players who are thought to be not quite ready to make the step up to ‘week in, week out’ Super League first team duties but for whom first team match experience is likely to be beneficial for their development.

  • Only Super League players can be dual registered and the receiving club must be a club in the Championships, meaning that Super League to Super League club dual registrations are not available.
  • A dual registered player will be eligible to play and train with both clubs in a format agreed between the clubs, subject to registration, salary cap and competition eligibility rules.
  • The player is restricted to playing in one fixture per scheduled round of fixtures in any given week and would not be eligible to play for his Super League club on a Thursday and in a Championship fixture at the weekend, for example.
  • A receiving club will be limited to a total of five dual registered players per matchday squad.

Match officials[edit]

All rugby league matches are governed by the laws set out by the RFL; these laws are enforced by match officials. Former Super League and International Referee Steve Ganson is the current Head of the Match Officials Department and Technical Director.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The list of Monday night rugby league Championship fixtures live on TV". 14 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Operational Rules". RFL. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  3. ^ Super League to become a 12-team competition from 2015. Superleague.co.uk (11 July 2013). Retrieved on 20 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Super League: Competition restructures confirmed". BBC Sport. 24 September 2018.
  5. ^ BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  6. ^ "Steeden become Official Match Ball Partner".
  7. ^ Craven, Dave (6 October 2021). "Championship seals broadcast deal with Premier Sports for live Monday night games". www.yorkshirepost.co.uk. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  8. ^ Wilson, Andy (9 February 2013). "Debate continues over Super League and Championship dual registration". The Guardian.

External links[edit]