Championship (rugby league)
|Number of teams||12|
|Level on pyramid||2|
|Promotion to||Super League|
|Relegation to||League 1|
|Domestic cup(s)||Challenge Cup|
|TV partners||Sky Sports Super 8's Qualifiers Only|
|2016 RFL 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, and currently consists of 12 teams. The current champions are Leigh Centurions.
The current incarnation of second division rugby league in England dates to 2003, when the Northern Ford Premiership was split into National League One and National League Two. In 2009 the league names were changed to the Championship and Championship 1, with the latter being rechristened League 1 in 2015.
- 1 History
- 2 Clubs
- 3 Structure
- 4 Results
- 5 Sponsor
- 6 Media
- 7 Reserve Grade
- 8 Juniors
- 9 Match officials
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
1902–1973: Establishment and regular competition
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. 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
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.
The record crowd for a club game at this level of competition was set in 2008 at the Stobart Stadium when Widnes Vikings defeated Salford City Reds 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.
2009–2014: The Championship and licensing
In 2009 the league was rebranded from National League One to The Championship and the system of automatic promotion and relegation with Super League was scrapped and replaced by a licensing system which saw clubs awarded a Super League place based on their facilities, finances and overall strength over a three-year period. In this way Salford City Reds and Celtic Crusaders were awarded places in an expanded 14-team Super League competition beginning in 2009 (although both these clubs contested the 2008 National League 1 Grand Final and so would have also been promoted under the previous automatic system).
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.
First licensing period
From 2009 through 2011 two teams were relegated from the Championship to Championship 1. At the end of the three-year period, Widnes Vikings were promoted via the licensing system to replace Crusaders for the 2012 Super League season.
Second licensing period
In 2012, the Championship was expanded to 14 teams to accommodate an expansion of Championship 1.
2015–Present: Super 8s
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.
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:
- The top 8 Super League clubs continue to compete in the Super 8s. After playing each other once (either home or away), the top 4 clubs progress to the semi-finals to determine who will compete in the Super League Grand Final and be crowned champions.
- The remaining (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 Kingstone Press League 1. Two clubs will be relegated each year.
||Batley Bulldogs||1880||Batley, West Yorkshire||Fox's Biscuits Stadium||7,500|
||Bradford Bulls||1907||Bradford, West Yorkshire||Provident Stadium||27,491|
||Dewsbury Rams||1898||Dewsbury, West Yorkshire||Tetley's Stadium||5,800|
||Featherstone Rovers||1902||Featherstone, West Yorkshire||Bigfellas Stadium||8,000|
||Halifax||1873||Halifax, West Yorkshire||The MBi Shay||14,000|
||Leigh Centurions||1878||Leigh, Greater Manchester||Leigh Sports Village||11,000|
||London Broncos||1980||Ealing, London||Trailfinders Sports Ground||3,176|
||Oldham Roughyeds||1876||Stalybridge, Greater Manchester||Bower Fold||6,500|
||Sheffield Eagles||1984||Sheffield, South Yorkshire||Sheffield Hallam University||3,000|
||Swinton Lions||1866||Swinton, Greater Manchester||Park Lane||3,000|
||Whitehaven||1948||Whitehaven, Cumbria||Recreation Ground||7,500|
||Workington Town||1945||Workington, Cumbria||Derwent Park||10,000|
- *capacity for rugby league games may differ from official stadium capacity.
- Gold – current Champions
The 12 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. After the 23 rounds the top four teams play the bottom four teams in the Super League in the Qualifiers. The bottom eight teams play each other for the Championship Shield.
The Summer Bash
|Stadium||Location||Country||Highest attendance||Average attendance|
- The Qualifiers
The Qualifiers Super 8s 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.
|1||Super League Place|
|2||Super League Place|
|3||Super League Place|
|4||Million Pound Game|
|5||Million Pound Game|
- 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.
|5||Unable to Qualify for Play-offs|
|6||Unable to Qualify for Play-offs|
- See also Rugby Football League Championship Second Division for winners of the old Second Division.
|Season||Winners||Promoted||Relegated||Relegated from Super League|
|Season||Grand Final Winners||League Leaders||Successful Super League Applicant||Relegated from Super League||Relegated|
|Season||Champions||Promoted||Relegated||Championship Shield Winner||Relegated from Super League|
|2016||TBD||0–4 Teams||2 Teams||TBD||0–4 Teams|
||3||2004, 2014, 2015|
- Bold – Winners decided by Grand Final
The Championship has had three sponsors since 2003. Between 2003 and 2008 it was called the LHF Healthplan National League 1 before it was renamed the Championship in 2009 and sponsored by Cooperative.
|2003–2008||LHF Healthplan||LHF Healthplan National League 1|
|2013–2017||Kingstone Press Cider||Kingstone Press Championship|
Sky Sports and Premier Sports shared the TV rights to the Championship between 2008 to 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 in 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.
(Grand Final Only)
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.
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.
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 Acting Head of the Match Officials Department and Technical Director. Former Hull player and Huddersfield Head Coach Jon Sharp was the previous Head of the Match Officials Department of the RFL. Sharp was sacked in July 2015 and took up the role of Head Coach at Featherstone Rovers. He assumed his role at the RFL following Stuart Cummings' departure in March 2013 having previously held the role of Match Officials Coach & Technical Director.
- British rugby league system
- Super League
- Rugby League Conference
- Northern Ford Premiership
- Championship Cup
- Rugby League Reserve Team Championship
- Super League to become a 12-team competition from 2015. Superleague.co.uk (11 July 2013). Retrieved on 20 August 2013.
- BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
- Official Championship website
- RFL Championship coverage
- Scores from Sky Sports
- RugbyLeague.org Championship Fans Forums