Championship (rugby league)

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Country  England
Founded 2003
Number of teams 12
Levels on pyramid 2
Promotion to Super League
Relegation to Kingstone Press League 1
Domestic cup(s) Challenge Cup
Current champions
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions (2nd Tiltle)
Most championships
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
(2 titles)
TV partners Sky Sports
Website championship

The Championship, known as the Kingstone Press Championship after its title sponsor Kingstone Press Cider, is a professional rugby league competition based in the United Kingdom. It acts as the country's second-tier competition below the Super League, and has a system of promotion and relegation with the third-tier competition, League 1. It is organized by the Rugby Football League, the governing body for the sport in the UK. In 2015 it will be contested by twelve teams from England: 9 teams from the 2014 Kingstone Press Championship, 2014 Championship One champions Hunslet Hawks and the 2 relegated Super League teams, Bradford Bulls and the London Broncos.

The current incarnation of second division rugby league in Europe dates to 2003, when the Northern Ford Premiership was split into National League One and National League Two. With the addition of the French team Toulouse Olympique in 2009, the names were changed to the Championship and Championship 1. The current champions are Grand Final winners Leigh Centurions.


Second division rugby league competitions in the United Kingdom have been played at various times since 1902, and have been in place annually since 1973. 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.

In 2003, the NFP was completely re-organised into National Leagues One and Two. Teams that finished in the top ten of the NFP 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. York City Knights replaced the defunct York Wasps (who had folded mid-season) and also joined National League Two in 2003. 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.

At the end of the 2005 an extra team was relegated from Super League in order to accommodate French side Catalans Dragons. In turn an additional team was relegated from National League One; thus the number of teams in this division remained at ten. In 2009, with the introduction of Toulouse into the competition, the title "National League" was no longer appropriate. From the 2009 season the competition will be known as the Championship, with The Co-operative continuing their sponsorship of the competition. This addition raised the number of teams in the competition to 11.

The record crowd for a club game at this level of competition was set in 2008 at the Stobart Stadium when Widnes defeated Salford 20–18 in front of 8,189. The crowd record for regular season attendance was also broken in 2008 with an average of 2,205 spectators at each game.


See also Rugby Football League Championship Second Division for winners of the old Second Division.

National League 1 (2002-2008)[edit]

Between 2002 and 2008 teams in the second division of English rugby league were able to be promoted into Super League and relegated to the National League 1. One team was promoted to Super League and on team was relegated from Super League each year apart from 2008 when two teams were promoted to expand Super League to 14 teams. The National League was replaced by The Championship in 2009.

Season Sponsorship League Leaders Promoted Relegated Relegated from Super League League 2 Champions League 2 Runners Up
2003 Co-Operative Salford City Reds Salford City Reds Dewsbury Rams Halifax Keighley Cougars none
2004 Leigh Centurions Leigh Centurions Keighley Cougars Castleford Tigers Barrow Raiders none
2005 Whitehaven Castleford Tigers Barrow Raiders
Featherstone Rovers
Widnes Vikings
Leigh Centurions
York City Knights none
2006 Hull Kingston Rovers Hull Kingston Rovers Oldham Roughyeds
York City Knights
Castleford Tigers Dewsbury Rams Sheffield Eagles
2007 Castleford Tigers Castleford Tigers Rochdale Hornets
Doncaster Lakers
Salford City Reds Celtic Crusaders Featherstone Rovers
2008 Salford City Reds Salford City Reds
Celtic Crusaders
Dewsbury Rams N/A Gateshead Thunder Barrow Raiders

The Championship, Licensing and Playoffs (2009-2014)[edit]

After the 2009 season there was longer an automatic promotion or relegation from Super League. New teams will be admitted on a franchise basis. Reviews of franchises will take place every three years to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful. However the licensing system has proven to be an unwelcome system by many top championship clubs. Many supporters were left shocked when Halifax were denied a place in super league for cash strapped Super League side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. During the 2012 season Leigh Mp and Leigh Centurions honorary Vice President Andy Burnham and Fetherstone Rovers coach Daryl Powell called for a return to the old Promotion and Relegation system, describing the current system as a closed shop.

Please see 2009–2011 Super League Licences and 2012–2014 Super League Licences for further details on the licence criteria.

From 2009 through 2011, and again from 2013 on, two teams are relegated from the Championship to Championship 1. Teams in league positions 2 to 7 in Championship 1 will qualify for the playoffs, with the winner of the playoff final being promoted, along with the team positioned first after the regular season, to the Championship.

In 2012 only, there was no relegation from the Championship. The RFL then announced that the Championship will be expanded to 14 teams beginning with the 2013 season. To accommodate this, the top four teams in the 2012 Championship 1 will be promoted, with four new clubs added to that competition for 2013.

A play-off structure was used to determine the winners of the Championship. Two teams were relegated from the Championship (except in 2012), being replaced by the team finishing top of Championship 1 and the winner of a play-off structure involving the six teams finishing behind the league leaders in Championship 1. The Championship play-offs would be followed by the Championship Grand Final to decide who were the champions.

Season Sponsorship Grand Final Winners League Leaders Successful Super League Applicant Relegated from Super League Relegated Championship 1 Winners
2009 Co-Operative Barrow Raiders Barrow Raiders N/A N/A Doncaster
Gateshead Thunder
Keighley Cougars
Dewsbury Rams
2010 Halifax Featherstone Rovers N/A N/A Keighley Cougars
Hunslet Hawks
York City Knights
2011 Featherstone Rovers Featherstone Rovers Widnes Vikings N/A Barrow Raiders
Toulouse Olympique
Swinton Lions
Keighley Cougars
2012 Sheffield Eagles Featherstone Rovers N/A N/A N/A League expansion in 2013 Doncaster
Barrow Raiders
Workington Town
2013 Kingstone Press Cider Sheffield Eagles Featherstone Rovers N/A N/A York City Knights
Hunslet Hawks
North Wales Crusaders
Rochdale Hornets
2014 Leigh Centurions Leigh Centurions N/A Bradford Bulls
London Broncos
Barrow Raiders
Swinton Lions
Rochdale Hornets
North Wales Crusaders
Keighley Cougars
Hunslet Hawks

Reintroducing Promotion to Super League (2015-Onwards)[edit]

From 2015 the top four teams in the Championship and the bottom four teams in Super League at the end of the regular season take part in the Super 8s where they form a league of eight. The eight teams play each other once (home or away). The top three automatically gain a place in the next seasons Super League while fourth and fifth will play each other in the Million Pound Game to determine who gains the last Super League place. The bottom half of the a Championship will play each other in a playoff for the Championship Shield. Two teams will be relegated each year.

Season Sponsorship League Leaders Promoted Relegated Relegated from Super League Promoted from League 1 Championship Shield Winner
2015 Kingstone Press Cider TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD TBA


Club Wins Winning years
Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils
2 2003, 2008,
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
2 2004, 2014
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
2 2012, 2013
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
1 2005
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
1 2006
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
1 2007
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
1 2009
Faxcolours.svg Halifax
1 2010
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
1 2011
  • Bold - Winners decided by Grand Final

Super 8's[edit]

  • The Qualifiers

The Qualifiers Super 8's sees the bottom 4 teams from the original Super League table mixed with the top 4 teams from the Championship. The points totals are reset to 0 and each team plays 7 games each, playing every other team once. After 7 games each the teams finishing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd will gain qualification to the next years Super League season. the teams finishing 4th and 5th will play in the "Million Pound Game" at the home of the 4th place team. This one game fixture will see the winner earn a place in the next year Super League season, whilst the loser, along with teams finishing 6th, 7th and 8th will be relegated to the next years Championship competition.

Position Club Played Won Drawn Lost Pts for Pts agst Points
1 Automatic Super League Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 Automatic Super League Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 Automatic Super League Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 Million Pound Game 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 Million Pound Game 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6 Championship Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 Championship Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8 Championship Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  Teams qualifying for next years Super League .
  Teams qualifying for the "Million Pound Game" to earn a Super League Place
  Teams relegated to the Championship for next season
  • Championship Shield

The remaining 8 teams in the Championship who do not make the top 8 will carry the points they earn in the regular season forward and play each other once more. The top four teams will then enter a playoff for the Championship Shield. The bottom 2 teams will then be relegated to League 1.

Position Club Played Won Drawn Lost Pts for Pts agst Points
1 Playoff Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 Playoff Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 Playoff Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 Playoff Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 Championship Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6 Championship Place 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
7 Relegated 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8 Relegated 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  Teams qualifying for Championship Shield playoffs.
  Teams will play in next seasons Championship
  Teams relegated League 1 for next season

Points system[edit]

From 2009-2014 a bonus point was awarded in the Championship

  • Win – Three points
  • Draw – Two points
  • Loss by 12 points or fewer – One point

This point structure has many benefits as it offers clubs a tangible reward for strong, consistent performance over 80 minutes, the system encourages teams to keep competing in games that they may not be able to win which gives clubs the opportunity to make a positive impact on their League position.

The system encourages teams to be consistent in all their matches throughout the season. This stimulates players and teams which has a positive impact on the intensity and the standards of the sport at this level.

The RFL commissioned a study prior to introducing this new system. The study examined what would happen if the new system had applied in previous National League seasons. The results showed the system did not disproportionately distort competition tables or give teams that lost matches too great a reward. Also, the system does not exacerbate the gap between strong and weak

From 2015 the bonus point was scrapped.

  • Win – Two points
  • Draw – One points

The Summer Bash[edit]

Main article: The Summer Bash

From 2015 the Championship will have its own Magic Weekend held at Bloomfield Road where all 12 Championship club will play an extra round usually against a rival.[1]

Stadium Location Country Highest attendance Average attendance
Bloomfield Road Blackpool England N/A N/A


Championship clubs
Colours Club Established City Stadium Capacity*
Batley colours.svg
Batley Bulldogs 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire Foxs Biscuits Stadium 7,500
Bradford Bulls 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire Provident Stadium 27,491
Dewsbury Rams 1898 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire The Tetley's Stadium 5,100
Doncaster colours.svg
Doncaster RLFC 1951 Doncaster, South Yorkshire Keepmoat Stadium 15,231
Featherstone Rovers 1902 Featherstone, West Yorkshire Post Office Road 6,750
Halifax RLFC 1873 Halifax, West Yorkshire The Shay 14,000
Hunslet Hawks 1883 Leeds, West Yorkshire South Leeds Stadium 4,000
Leigh colours.svg
Leigh Centurions 1878 Leigh, Greater Manchester Leigh Sports Village 11,000
London Broncos 1980 Edgware, London The Hive 5,176
Sheffeagles colours.svg
Sheffield Eagles 1984 Sheffield, South Yorkshire Keepmoat Stadium 15,231
Haven colours.svg
Whitehaven RLFC 1948 Whitehaven, Cumbria Recreation Ground 7,500
Workington Town 1945 Workington, Cumbria Zebra Claims Stadium 10,000
  • *capacity for Rugby League games may differ from official stadium capacity.
  • Gold - current Champions


From 2012 onwards a game from every round of the Championship will be broadcast live on Thursday's on Premier Sports.

Reserve Grade[edit]

The reserve grade for Championship and Championship 1 clubs is the Reserve Team First Division. Participation is optional but twelve clubs run a reserve team in it, plus London Skolars run a reserve team in the Rugby League Conference Premier South.

The London Broncos u19s currently compete in the Super League Academy.


While there is no under-18s league for Championship clubs, Widnes Vikings and as of 2011 Featherstone Rovers run their under-18s in the Super League Academy and Gateshead Thunder, Keighley Cougars and Sheffield Eagles run their under-18s in the Gillette National Youth League.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 

External links[edit]