Championship (rugby league)

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Country  England
Founded 2003
Number of teams 12
Level 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 (3rd Tiltle)
Most championships
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions (3 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.


1902-1973: Establishment and regular competition[edit]

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.

2002-2008: National Leagues[edit]

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.

2009-2014: The Championship and licensing[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.

First licensing period[edit]

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.

Second licensing period[edit]

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.

2015-Onwards: Super 8s[edit]

Main article: Rugby League Super 8s

At the 2013 Annual General Meeting at Bradford, the Super League clubs agreed to reduce the number of clubs to 12 from 2015, and also for a return of Promotion and Relegation with a 12 club Championship.[1]

The 12 First Utility Super League and 12 Kingstone Press Championship clubs will play each other home and away over 22 "rounds", including a Magic Weekend for both divisions. Following the conclusion of their regular league seasons, the 24 clubs will then compete in a play-off series where they split into 3 leagues of 8 based upon league position:[2][3]

  • The top 8 Super League clubs will continue to compete in the Super 8s. After playing each other once (either home or away), the top 4 clubs will progress to the semi-finals to determine who will compete in the Grand Final and be crowned champions.
  • The remaining (bottom 4) Super League clubs and the top 4 Championship clubs will compete in The Qualifiers. They will 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 will compete for the Championship Shield and to avoid relegation to Kingstone Press League 1. Two clubs will be relegated each year.

Funding for clubs will be tiered in both leagues to prevent relegation related financial difficulties.


Championship clubs
Colours Club Established City Stadium Capacity*
Batley colours.svg
Batley Bulldogs 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire Mount Pleasant 7,500
Bradford Bulls 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire Odsal 27,491
Dewsbury Rams 1898 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire Crown Flatt 5,800
Doncaster colours.svg
Doncaster 1951 Doncaster, South Yorkshire Keepmoat Stadium 15,231
Featherstone Rovers 1902 Featherstone, West Yorkshire Post Office Road 8,000
Halifax 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 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


Regular Season[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: The Summer Bash

In 2015 the Championship staged its own Magic Weekend held at Bloomfield Road where all 12 Championship clubs play an extra round usually against a rival.[4]

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

Bradford Bulls taking 3000+ supporters to outnumber the rest of the championship

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
  • 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



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


Season League Leaders Promoted Relegated Relegated from Super League
Redscolours.svg Salford City Reds
Redscolours.svg Salford City Reds
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury Rams
Faxcolours.svg Halifax
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Cougscolours.svg Keighley Cougars
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham Roughyeds
Yorkcolours.svg York City Knights
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale Hornets
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster Lakers
Redscolours.svg Salford City Reds
Redscolours.svg Salford City Reds
Redscolours.svg Salford City Reds
Cruscolours.svg Celtic Crusaders
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury Rams


Season Grand Final Winners League Leaders Successful Super League Applicant Relegated from Super League Relegated
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Gthundercolours.svg Gateshead Thunder
Faxcolours.svg Halifax
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Cougscolours.svg Keighley Cougars
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
ToulouseRLcolours.PNG Toulouse Olympique
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Yorkcolours.svg York City Knights
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet Hawks
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
Broncoscolours.png London Broncos
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton Lions
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale Hornets
NWCrucolours.png North Wales Crusaders
Cougscolours.svg Keighley Cougars


Season Champions Promoted Relegated Championship Shield Winner Relegated from Super League
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions


Club Wins Winning years
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
3 2004, 2014, 2015
Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils
2 2003, 2008,
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
2 2012, 2013
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven RLFC
1 2005
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
1 2006
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
1 2007
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
1 2009
Faxcolours.svg Halifax RLFC
1 2010
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
1 2011
  • 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.

Period Sponsor Name
2003-2008 LHF Healthplan LHF Healthplan National League 1
2009-2012 Cooperative Cooperative Championship
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 Final. In 2015 Sky Sports showed selected games from the Summer Bash and games from the Qualifiers and Championship Shield.


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 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]


External links[edit]