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Super League

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Super League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2024 Super League season
SportRugby league
Founded1996; 28 years ago (1996)
No. of teams12
Country England
 France
Most recent
champion(s)
Wigan Warriors
(6th title)
Most titles St Helens
(10 titles)
TV partner(s)
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)Challenge Cup
International cup(s)World Club Challenge
Official websitewww.superleague.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

The Super League (officially known as the Betfred Super League due to sponsorship from Betfred, and legally known as Super League Europe)[1][2] is the top-level of the British rugby league system. At present the league consists of twelve teams, of which ten are from Northern England, reflecting the sport's geographic heartland within the UK, one from London and one from southern France.

The Super League began in 1996, replacing the existing First Division and, significantly, switching from a traditional winter season to a summer season.

The regular season typically runs from February to September with each team playing 27 games; 11 home games, 11 away games, Magic Weekend and an additional 4 'loop fixtures' decided by league positions. The top six then enter the play-off series leading to the Grand Final which determines the champions. As of 2024 there is no relegation to the Championship.

The Super League champions take on the champions of the Australian National Rugby League in the World Club Challenge.

Twenty-four clubs have competed since the inception of the Super League since 1996: nineteen from England, three from France, one from Wales and one from Canada. Four of them have won the title: St Helens (10), Leeds Rhinos (8), Wigan Warriors (6) and Bradford Bulls (4).

History[edit]

Background and establishment[edit]

During the 1950s, British rugby league experienced a boom in popularity. However the twenty years that followed saw attendances and popularity decline. A "Super League" was first suggested as far back as the 1970s as a way to address the decline. By the early 1990s the sport was still struggling with dwindling attendances, poor facilities and was dominated by one club, Wigan, who were the only full time professional team.[citation needed]

In 1992, the then Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League, Maurice Lindsay reopened the idea for a Super League. He wanted the new league to break the stereotype of rugby league being a sport only played in Northern England, and had a vision for clubs to play out of new facilities under a set of minimum standards in an unpublished document called "Framing the Future".[citation needed]

Lindsay's Super League was given a boost during the mid 90s Australian Super League war. A Rupert Murdoch backed Super League in Australia was trying to gain broadcasting supremacy over the Australian Rugby League. In an attempt to gain the upper hand, Murdoch, whose broadcasting company bSkyb already had the rights to the First Division, approached the RFL.[citation needed]

A £77 million offer[3] and an £87 million payment[4] aided the decision. It was agreed a 14 team Super League would take place in 1996, switching the sport from winter to summer and making every team full time.

As part of the agreement, the Super League would be a European competition. Rugby league held a traditional heartland in the South of France and so Toulouse Olympique were invited (however never ended up taking a place in Super League I). A second club from the French leagues was also planned to be invited but the French government refused their backing unless there was a team from Paris, thus Paris Saint-Germain were founded as the second French club playing under the same name and colours as the association football club.

As well as two French clubs being involved, several merges between English clubs were put forward:

The proposal to merge neighbouring clubs, many of whom were local rivals and had been part of communities for a hundred years, proved unpopular. On Good Friday 1995 it was announced that Toulouse had pulled out and Widnes had their own place alongside Warrington, this as well as anti-merger campaigns and debates in parliament effectively killing any change of mergers happening.

The first major change before the Super League happened in the 1994–95 season. It was decided the teams finishing in the top ten of the First Division would be in the Super League. Teams finishing 11–15 would be relegated to the Second Division while the bottom team would be relegated to the new Third Division. In the current Second Division the top seven teams would remain while the rest would make up the Third Division.

Controversy occurred at the end of 1994–95 when Keighley won the Second Division but were denied promotion due to fourth placed London Broncos being fast tracked to the First Division as Lindsay wanted the Super League to have greater national coverage. This resulted in a legal challenge from Keighley and Widnes who were both denied a place in the Super League.[citation needed]

The 1995–96 season would be the last to be played in winter and fittingly was the sports centenary year. The season was kept short, starting in August and finishing in January, with the 1995 World Cup taking place in October.[citation needed]

1996–1997: First seasons[edit]

Super League finally kicked off in 1996 with the 12 founding teams being:

Along with the new league, new rules were introduced. Squad numbers were adopted, a video referee was at every televised game and the salary cap was introduced to stop clubs overspending and to allow for a more level playing field. Super League was also more Americanised with clubs adopting nicknames and the league seasons copying the NFL Super Bowl by being known as a Roman numeral rather than year (e.g. Super League 1996 was known as Super League I).

The first game was on 29 March which saw PSG beat Sheffield 30–24 in front of 17,873 people at Charlety Stadium. The inaugural Super League title was won by St Helens, breaking Wigan's stronghold for the first time since 1989 while Workington were relegated.

St Helens were unable to defend their title as Super League's second season was won by the Bradford Bulls with London Broncos justifying the decision to be fast tracked into Super League by finishing second. Oldham were relegated and PSG, who had finished 11th for the second consecutive time were dissolved after it was discovered some of their overseas players had tourist visas to avoid paying French tax.[citation needed]

1998–2008: Introduction of the Grand Final[edit]

Harlequins vs St Helens in the 2008 regular season

Due to Oldham being relegated and PSG folding, two teams, Hull Sharks and Huddersfield Giants, were promoted. It was also announced ahead of the 1998 season that there would be no relegation as the league planned to expand to 14 teams from 1999.

Following PSG folding, and as a result only English teams being present in the competition, the league was not referred to as a European competition from then on out and acted solely as the top tier of the British rugby league system.

The other major change was that a playoff would decide the Champions. This was not new to rugby league as a playoff system had been in use for most of the sports existence although one hadn't been used since 1973. Confusingly a playoff did take place at the end of the season but was separate from the official league season and thus didn't count towards anything. Old Trafford the venue for the old Premiership Playoff Final would be used to host the new Grand Final in which the top five Super League teams would contest.

The first Grand Final took place at Old Trafford in front of a sellout crowd of 40,000 who watched Wigan defeat Leeds 12–8, their first league title since the old First Division.

Ahead of the expansion to 14 clubs Wakefield Trinity were promoted from the Second Division and a new club, Gateshead Thunder were awarded a place in Super League in 1999, which was won by St Helens who beat Bradford in the Grand Final.

Gateshead had a successful debut season on the field finishing two points off the playoffs however off the field the club was suffering financial difficulties. By the end of the season Gateshead announced they would merge with Hull Sharks who were to revert to being known as Hull FC. Gateshead weren't the only club struggling, Sheffield announced they could no longer continue and merged with Huddersfield and would be known as Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants. Due to these two clubs resigning from the league it was agreed Super League would revert to 12 teams after just one season.

Relegation was reintroduced in 2001 with one team going down each year. The only major change to the league was in 2002 when the playoffs were expanded to six teams. The League Leaders Shield was introduced in 2002 to reward the team who finished top at the end of the regular season.[5]

In 2005 it was announced a franchise was to be awarded to a French club, with Toulouse, Villeneuve and Catalans Dragons all applying. In the end Catalans, who were only founded in 2000 after a merger between two Perpignan based clubs, were chosen. Their debut season would be in 2006 and they would be exempt from relegation for the first three years. Their inclusion in Super League meant two clubs would be relegated in 2005. Bottom team Leigh were relegated with 11th placed Widnes.

Leeds Rhinos celebrating winning the 2008 Super League Grand Final

By the mid-2000s standards on the field had improved and attendances increased but many clubs still played out of crumbling stadiums and most of the sport was still played in the North of England. There was also the emergence of the "Big Four" (Bradford, Leeds, Wigan, and St Helens) who were dominating the league during its first 10 seasons.

2009–2014: Expansion and licensing[edit]

Announced in May 2005, to try and combat the issues facing Super League, the RFL introduced licences as the new determinant of the Super League competition's participants from 2009 with relegation scrapped, two new teams would expand the league to 14. The licences were awarded after consideration of more factors than simply the on-the-field performance of a club.[6] After 2007 automatic promotion and relegation was suspended for Super League with new teams to be admitted on a licence basis with the term of the licence to start in 2009.[6]

The RFL stated that clubs applying to compete in Super League would be assessed by criteria in four areas (stadium facilities, finance and business performance, commercial and marketing and playing strength, including junior production and development) with the final evaluations and decisions being taken by the RFL board of directors.[7]

Successful applicants were licensed for three years of Super League competition and[8] three-yearly reviews of Super League membership took place to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful.[7]

Points attained by each club's application are translated into licence grades A, B or C. Clubs who achieved an A or B Licence would be automatically awarded a place in the Super League, while those who achieved a C Licence underwent further scrutiny before the RFL decided who made the final cut.[9]

First licensing period

In June 2008, the RFL confirmed that the Super League would be expanded from 12 teams to 14 in 2009 with the playoffs also expanding to 8 teams,[10][11] and on 22 July 2008 the RFL confirmed the teams awarded licences.[12] The teams announced were the 12 existing Super League teams along with National League 1 teams, Celtic Crusaders and Salford. Celtic Crusaders became the first Welsh team to play in Super League and the only team to be awarded a licence who had never played in the Super League previously.

Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh and Widnes all failed to attain a licence. Leigh and Widnes, especially, were disappointed with their exclusions with Leigh's chairman being extremely critical of the RFL.[13]

By the end of the 2008 season, Salford and Celtic Crusaders finished 13th and 14th respectively and the Grand Final was won by the League Leaders, Leeds Rhinos for a fourth time. The following season Crusaders made the playoffs but were knocked out in the first round. League Leaders Wigan won the Grand Final.

By 2011 the Crusaders were suffering financial difficulties and entered administration and were deducted four points. Salford on the other hand despite never making the playoffs in the three years since they were promoted were in a much better financial position.

During this period the league was dominated by Leeds and St Helens with Leeds winning three titles and St Helens appearing in every Grand Final.

Second licensing period

Pre match at a 2012 regular season game between Catalans and St Helens

For the 2012–14 seasons Championship sides Batley, Barrow, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax and Widnes all met the on-field criteria needed to submit an application,[14] but despite this only Barrow, Halifax and Widnes decided to submit an application.[15] On 31 March 2011 Widnes were awarded a Super League licence; Barrow did not meet the criteria and were refused a licence; and Halifax's application was to be further considered alongside the other Super League clubs.[16]

The Rugby Football League's final decision was announced on 26 July 2011, Widnes would join thirteen existing Super League teams with Crusaders having withdrawn their application and Halifax being refused a license.[17] Crusaders CEO Rod Findlay stated that the club's finances were not in a good enough condition to justify their place in Super League.[18] Halifax chairman Mark Steele was critical of the decision to award Wakefield a licence over themselves, saying "If you compare Belle Vue with the Shay, it's no contest; if you compare playing records, it's no contest; and if you compare the financial position, we have kept our head above water and they haven't."[18] Wakefield had been favourites to lose their licence before Crusaders' withdrawal.[18]

2015–2018: Super 8s[edit]

The 2017 Super League Grand Final

After two licensing periods the system started to fall out of favour. Some highlighted clubs such as Wakefield and Castleford which had failed to build new stadiums but were twice awarded licenses over Championship clubs who many thought would be better suited to Super League. There was also unrest in the Championship with clubs feeling their success on the pitch should be rewarded.

At the 2013 Annual General Meeting in 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.[19]

A radical new league structure was proposed. The 12 Super League and 12 Championship clubs would play each other home and away over 22 rounds. Following the conclusion of their regular league seasons, the 24 clubs then competed in a play-off series where they split into 3 leagues of 8 based upon league position:[20][21]

  • The top eight Super League clubs continued to compete in the Super 8s. After playing each other once (either home or away), the top four clubs progressed to the semi-finals to determine who competed in the Grand Final to be crowned champions.
  • The remaining (bottom four) Super League clubs and the top four Championship clubs competed in The Qualifiers. They played each other once (either home or away) to determine which four of the clubs would compete in Super League the following year.

Funding for clubs was tiered in both leagues to prevent relegation-related financial difficulties.

In preparation for the new structure, two clubs would be relegated from Super League in 2014 to reduce the league to 12. By the end of the season London Broncos and four-time Champions Bradford Bulls were relegated to the Championship.

In June 2015 eight of the 12 Super League clubs voted to allow a Marquee Player that could exceed a club's salary cap as long as they could afford their wages. The marquee player rule came into force for the 2016 Super League season.

The first Super 8s season was won by the Leeds Rhinos, with all four Super League clubs surviving the Qualifiers. The following year Hull KR were relegated when they lost to Salford in the Million Pound Game, with Leigh being promoted.

2017 saw Castleford finish top of the league for the first time in their history although they eventually lost the Grand Final to Leeds who claimed their 8th title.

By 2018 there were question marks over how successful the Super 8s were. Attendances after the split dropped and there was more interest in relegation than there was in the Super League 8s and playoffs.

2019–2021: Abolishment of Super 8s, split from RFL, and COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

Wigan and Warrington walk out at Magic Weekend 2019

On 14 September 2018, an EGM was called to discuss the future of the sport. The Super League clubs were unhappy with the way the RFL was running the sport and wanted more control over future TV deals and sponsorship money. A vote went in favour of the Super League and they subsequently split from the RFL while also voting to scrap the Super 8s in favour of a more traditional league structure with a one up one down system for promotion and relegation.[22]

As a result of the split the Super League appointed former Everton CEO Robert Elstone as Chief Executive. Elstone brought in new branding and new rules such as the shot clock to stop time wasting, and golden point extra time in favour of draws.[23]

Elstone's success was short lived. After a successful 2019 season, the 2020 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. The season was temporarily suspended during the national lockdown after which Toronto Wolfpack did not return to complete the season. There were calls made from Super League clubs for the two executive bodies – Super League and the RFL – to re-amalgamate following the financial difficulties from the pandemic.[24]

On 14 December 2020, it was decided by unanimous vote that the Leigh Centurions would take the 12th spot in the 26th Super League season, replacing the Toronto Wolfpack who withdrew from the league as a result of financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. This came after the RFL cancelled the Championship 2020 season in response to the pandemic.[25]

In February 2021 Elstone announced his resignation as Chief Executive of Super League, citing failures to bring outside investment to the league and the effects of the pandemic. Huddersfield's chairman Ken Davy was appointed as temporary Chief Executive until the end of the season. Subsequently, the new Sky Sports TV deal for the Super League and lower divisions was cut from £40 million to £25 million per year for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.[26] This again had RFL and Super League officials calling for a realignment of the two governing bodies.

2022–present: Realignment with RFL, IMG, and grading[edit]

On 22 March 2022, at a Special General Meeting it was announced the RFL and Super League were to officially realign after a majority of clubs voted in favour. A new company separate from the RFL was also set up to take care of the commercial side of the sport.

On the 10 May 2022 the RFL announced it had signed a 12-year deal with sports marketing company IMG to maximise the sports growth.

IMG announced that they planned to scrap traditional promotion and relegation in favour of a return to licensing, although it would be slightly different to how it was executed before.

Clubs across all three divisions would be graded A, B or C. Clubs Graded A would be eligible for Super League and be immune from relegation with the rest of Super League being made up of the highest ranking Grade B clubs who could be moved between Super League and the Championship depending on how well they were rated. Clubs Graded C would make up the rest of the Championship and League One. The overall goal was to have a Super League with 12 Grade A clubs.

IMG announced grading criteria in March 2023, with clubs being judged on fandom, on field performances, finances, stadium and catchment.

Structure[edit]

Regular season[edit]

There are 12 clubs in the Super League. During the course of the season (usually from February to September) each club plays the other twice, once at their home stadium and once at their opponent's. Clubs also play five additional 'Loop Fixtures' (including Magic Weekend) which are decided by the previous seasons league standings (For example, the team that finished 1st the previous season would play an additional game against the 3rd, 5th etc. placed teams.[27]). Altogether clubs play 27 games.

Teams receive two points for a win, if a game is drawn at full time, 20 minutes of Golden point are played. If teams are still drawn after Golden point, both teams are awarded a point.[28] No points are awarded for a defeat.

Teams are ranked by competition points, points difference (points scored less points conceded), points scored. The team finishing top after 27 games is awarded the League Leaders Shield.

Play-offs[edit]

The play-offs have had various formats. Currently once every club has played 27 games, the top six teams qualify for the playoffs.[29]

Round one sees 3rd v 6th and 4th v 5th. The winners then progress to the semi finals where the teams finishing 1st and 2nd enter. The two winners of the semi-finals meet in the Grand Final.

Grand Final[edit]

The Grand Final is the championship-deciding game and showpiece event of the Super League season. It is held annually at Old Trafford, with the exception of 2020 when it was hosted at the KCOM Stadium in Hull in front of no supporters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Stadium Years
England Manchester Old Trafford 1998–2019, 2021–present
England Hull KCOM Stadium 2020

Clubs[edit]

Current clubs[edit]

Club First season in
top division
First season in
Super League
Seasons
in top
division
Seasons
in Super
League
Titles
(Most
recent top
division title)
Location Grounds
Castleford Tigersa 1926-27 1996 91 27 0 (N/A) England Castleford

Wheldon Road (10,500)

Catalans Dragons 2007 2007 18 18 0 (N/A) France Perpignan

Stade Gilbert Brutus (13,000)

Huddersfield Giantsc 1895-96 1998 90 27 7 (1961-62) England Huddersfield

Kirklees Stadium (24,121)

Hull FCc 1895-96 1998 107 27 6 (1982-83) England West Hull

MKM Stadium (25,586)

Hull Kingston Rovers 1902-03 2007 89 17 5 (1984-85) England Kingston upon Hull

Craven Park (12,225)

Leeds Rhinosabc 1895-96 1996 113 29 11 (2017) England Leeds

Headingley Rugby Stadium (19,700)

Leigh Leopardsc 1895-96 2005 71 5 2 (1981-82) England Leigh

Leigh Sports Village (12,000)

London Broncosa 1981-82 1996 24 21 0 (N/A) England Wimbledon

Plough Lane (9,215)

Salford Red Devils 1901-02 1997 82 26 6 (1975-76) England Barton-upon-Irwell

Salford Community Stadium (12,000)

St Helensabc 1895-96 1996 113 29 17 (2022) England St. Helens

Totally Wicked Stadium (18,000)

Warrington Wolvesabcd 1895-96 1996 115 29 3 (1954-55) England Warrington

Halliwell Jones Stadium (15,300)

Wigan Warriorsabc 1895-96 1996 113 29 23 (2023) England Wigan

Brick Community Stadium (25,138)

Notes
a: Founding member of the Super League
b: Appeared in every Super League season since 1996
c: One of the original 22 RFL teams
d: appeared in every top flight season since 1895-96
Current Champions

Former Super League clubs[edit]

Club Seasons in Super League First season in
Super League
Last season in
Super League
Titles
(Most
recent top
division title)
Location
Wakefield Trinity
24 1999 2023 1968 England Wakefield
Bradford Bulls
19 1996 2014 2005 England Bradford
Widnes Vikings
11 2002 2018 1989 England Widnes
Halifax Panthers
8 1996 2003 1985–86 England Halifax
Sheffield Eagles
4 1996 1999 N/A England Sheffield
Crusaders §[a]
3 2009 2011 N/A Wales Bridgend

Wales Wrexham

Oldham
2 1996 1997 1956–57 England Oldham
Paris Saint-Germain §
2 1996 1997 N/A France Paris
Gateshead Thunder §
1 1999 1999 N/A England Gateshead
Workington Town
1 1996 1996 1950–51 England Workington
Toronto Wolfpack
1 2020 2020 N/A Canada Toronto
Toulouse Olympique
1 2022 2022 N/A France Toulouse

Results[edit]

Champions[edit]

For the first two Super League seasons, Champions were decided by a round robin system. The league format changed in 1998 with a play-off series used to determine the Super League champions for the first since 1972–73.

Club Wins Runners
up
Winning Years
1 St. Helens 10 5 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
2 Leeds Rhinos 8 3 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017
3 Wigan Warriors 6 6 1998, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2023
4 Bradford Bulls 4 3 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005
5 Warrington Wolves 0 4 -
6 Catalans Dragons 2
7 Castleford Tigers 1
Hull FC
London Broncos
Salford Red Devils

League Leaders' Shield[edit]

The League Leaders' Shield was first awarded in 2002, and is given to the team finishing the regular season top of Super League.[30]

Club Wins Winning Years
1 St. Helens 9 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2022
2 Wigan Warriors 4 2010, 2012, 2020, 2023
3 Leeds Rhinos 3 2004, 2009, 2015
4 Warrington Wolves 2 2011, 2016
5 Bradford Bulls 1 2003
Huddersfield Giants 2013
Castleford Tigers 2017
Catalans Dragons 2021

The Double[edit]

In British rugby league, the term The Double refers to the achievement of a club that wins both the League Championship and Challenge Cup in the same season. To date, this has been achieved by ten different clubs in total, six of which occasions have been during the Super League era.

Club Wins Winning years
1 Wigan Warriors 7 1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93,
1993–94, 1994–95, 2013
2 St. Helens 4 1965–66, 1996, 2006, 2021
3 Huddersfield Giants 2 1912–13, 1914–15
4 Broughton Rangers 1 1901–02
5 Halifax 1 1902–03
6 Hunslet FC § 1 1907–08
7 Swinton Lions 1 1927–28
8 Warrington Wolves 1 1953–54
9 Bradford Bulls 1 2003
10 Leeds Rhinos 1 2015

The Treble[edit]

The Treble refers to the team who wins all three domestic honours on offer during the season; Grand Final, League Leaders' Shield and Challenge Cup. To date seven teams have won the treble, only Bradford Bulls, St. Helens and Leeds Rhinos have won the treble in the Super League era.

Club Wins Winning years
1 3 1991–92, 1992–93, 1994–95
2 2 1912–13, 1914–15
3 2 1965–66, 2006
4 1 1907–08
5 1 1927–28
6 1 2003
7 1 2015

Awards[edit]

Super League Trophy[edit]

The winner of the Grand Final is given the Super League Trophy as Super League Champions. This is considered more prestigious than the minor premiership. Each year, the year of a champion team's triumph, team name and team Rugby league football captain are engraved.

The record for most Super League titles won is held by St Helens with ten titles. Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield currently holds the record for captaining the most Super League title winning sides after captaining Leeds to their first 7 grand final successes. St. Helens contested the final 6 years in a row (from 2006 until 2011) during which time they succeeded only once in lifting the trophy against Hull F.C. in 2006; after which they suffered consecutive defeats against Leeds in 2007, 2008, 2009, Wigan in 2010 and Leeds once again in 2011. However, St. Helens made a victorious return in 2014, defeating rivals, Wigan 14–6 and have since won a further four grand finals, defeating Salford in 2019, Wigan in 2020 and Catalans Dragons in 2021 and Leeds in 2022.

Following their 2020 defeat to St. Helens, Wigan have now broken St Helens' record of losing five Grand Finals, losing a total of six. Hull F.C. (2006), Warrington (2012, 2013, 2016, and 2018), Castleford (2017), Salford (2019), and Catalans (2021) have all appeared in the Grand Final but never won.

Steve Prescott Man of Steel award[edit]

The Man of Steel Award is an annual award for the best player of the season in Super League. It has continued from pre-Super League times, with the first such award given in 1977. It was renamed in honour of Steve Prescott in 2014.

Albert Goldthorpe Medal[edit]

The Albert Goldthorpe Medal is an award voted for be members of the press who cast a vote after every game of the regular season. The three players who, in the opinion of the reporter, have been the three 'best and fairest' players in the game will receive three points, two points and one point respectively. To be eligible for a vote, a player must not have been suspended from the competition at any stage during the season.

Super League Dream Team[edit]

Each season a "Dream Team" is also named. The best thirteen players in their respective positions are voted for by members of the sports press. The 2023 dream team is as follows:

Player Team Appearance
1 England Jack Welsby St Helens 3
2 England Josh Charnley Leigh Leopards 3
3 New Zealand Shaun Kenny-Dowall Hull Kingston Rovers 2
4 England Jake Wardle Wigan Warriors 1
5 England Tom Johnstone Catalans Dragons 2
6 Australia Bevan French Wigan Warriors 3
7 Papua New Guinea Lachlan Lam Leigh Leopards 1
8 Australia Paul Vaughan Warrington Wolves 1
9 Papua New Guinea Edwin Ipape Leigh Leopards 1
10 Australia Tom Amone Leigh Leopards 1
11 England Kallum Watkins Salford Red Devils 3
12 England Liam Farrell Wigan Warriors 6
13 Tonga John Asiata Leigh Leopards 1

Coaches[edit]

Nat. Name Club Appointed Time as head coach
England Craig Lingard Castleford Tigers 17 October 2023 246 days
England Steve McNamara Catalans Dragons 19 June 2017 7 years, 0 days
Wales Ian Watson Huddersfield Giants 19 November 2020 3 years, 213 days
England Simon Grix (interim) Hull F.C. 16 April 2024 64 days
Australia Willie Peters Hull Kingston Rovers 4 September 2022 1 year, 289 days
England Chev Walker / Scott Grix (interim) Leeds Rhinos 19 June 2024 0 days
Papua New Guinea Adrian Lam Leigh Leopards 17 November 2021 2 years, 215 days
England Mike Eccles London Broncos 11 September 2022 1 year, 282 days
England Paul Rowley Salford Red Devils 5 November 2021 2 years, 227 days
England Paul Wellens St. Helens 5 October 2022 1 year, 258 days
England Sam Burgess Warrington Wolves 1 October 2023 262 days
England Matt Peet Wigan Warriors 5 October 2021 2 years, 258 days

Head coaches with Super League titles[edit]

The Super League has been won by 16 coaches, 10 from Australia, 5 from England and 1 from New Zealand.

Head Coach Wins Winning years
1 England Brian McDermott 4 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017
2 England Brian Noble 3 2001, 2003, 2005
3 England Shaun Wane 3 2013, 2016, 2018
4 Australia Kristian Woolf 3 2020, 2021, 2022
5 Australia Ian Millward 2 2000, 2002
6 Australia Tony Smith 2 2004, 2007
7 New Zealand Brian McClennan 2 2008, 2009
8 Australia Shaun McRae 1 1996
9 Australia Matthew Elliott 1 1997
10 Australia John Monie 1 1998
11 England Ellery Hanley 1 1999
12 Australia Daniel Anderson 1 2006
13 Australia Michael Maguire 1 2010
14 Australia Nathan Brown 1 2014
15 Australia Justin Holbrook 1 2019
16 England Matt Peet 1 2023

Top 10 coaches by Super League games coached[edit]

  • Bold indicates coach still at club
  • Italic indicates coach still active as a head coach in Rugby League but not in Super League at this time

Statistics correct as of 16 June 2024

Rank Player Club(s) Games
1 Australia Tony Smith Huddersfield (2001, 2003)
Leeds (2004–2007)
Warrington (2009–2017)
Hull KR (2019–2022)
Hull (2023–2024)
536
2 England Daryl Powell Leeds (2001–2003)
Castleford (2013–2021)
Warrington (2022–2023)
365
3 England Brian McDermott London (2007–2010)
Leeds (2011–2018)
Toronto (2020)
340
4 England Brian Noble Bradford (2001–2006)
Wigan (2006–2009)
Crusaders (2010)
Salford (2013–2014)
321
5 Australia Shaun McRae St. Helens (1996–1998)
Gateshead (1999)
Hull (2000–2004)
Salford (2007, 2009–2011)
312
6 England Steve McNamara Bradford (2006–2010)
Catalans (2017–present)
300
7 England John Kear Sheffield (1997–1999)
Huddersfield (2000)
Hull (2005–2006)
Wakefield (2006–2011)
272
8 England Richard Agar Hull (2006, 2008–2011)
Wakefield (2012–2014)
Leeds (20 19–2022)
236
9 Australia Ian Millward St. Helens (2000–2005)
Wigan (2005–2006)
Castleford (2012–2013)
228
10 Wales Ian Watson Salford (2015–2020)
Huddersfield (2021–present)
226

Players[edit]

  • Statistics are correct as of 16 June 2024.

Appearances[edit]

Former St Helens captain James Roby holds the record for appearances in Super League with 495 appearances
  • Note that appearances from the bench are also included in this list. Excluding appearances in Qualifiers
Most appearances
Rank Player Apps
1 England James Roby 495
2 England Kevin Sinfield 454
3 England Andy Lynch 452
4 England Paul Wellens 442
5 England Jamie Peacock 438
6 England Leon Pryce 432
7 England Ireland Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 430
8= England Ben Westwood 429
8= England Rob Burrow 429
10 England Danny Tickle 419
As of 16 June 2024


Italicised players still playing professional rugby league.
Bolded players still playing in Super League.

Tries[edit]

Hull KR winger Ryan Hall is the highest ever try scorer in Super League with 248 tries
Most tries
Rank Player Tries
1 England Ryan Hall 248
2 England Danny McGuire 247
3 England Josh Charnley 239
4= England Paul Wellens 199
4= England Keith Senior 199
6 England Jermaine McGillvary 196
7 England Ryan Atkins 186
8 England Tommy Makinson 185
9 England Leon Pryce 173
10 Australia Luke Dorn 170
As of 16 June 2024


Italicised players still playing professional rugby league.
Bolded players still playing in Super League.

Points[edit]

Most points
Rank Player Points
1 England Kevin Sinfield 3,443
2 Scotland England Danny Brough 2,462
3 England Paul Deacon 2,415
4 England Andy Farrell 2,376
5 Ireland Pat Richards 2,280
6 England Danny Tickle 2,267
7 Wales Lee Briers 2,240
8 England Sean Long 2,202
9 England Marc Sneyd 2,107
10 Wales Iestyn Harris 1,678
As of 16 June 2024


Italicised players still playing professional rugby league.
Bolded players still playing in Super League.

Winning captains[edit]

Kevin Sinfield captained the Leeds Rhinos to seven Grand Final victories, the most in Super League history by one player

12 players have captained teams to win the Super League.

Captain Wins Winning years
1 England Kevin Sinfield 7 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015
2 England Sean O'Loughlin 4 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
3 England James Roby 4 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
4 England Chris Joynt 3 1999, 2000, 2002
5 New Zealand Robbie Paul 3 1997, 2001, 2003
6 England Bobbie Goulding 1 1996
7 England Andy Farrell 1 1998
8 England Jamie Peacock 1 2005
9 England Sean Long 1 2006
10 England Paul Wellens 1 2014
11 England Danny McGuire 1 2017
12 England Liam Farrell 1 2023

Sponsorship[edit]

Since its inaugural season in 1996, the Super League has been sponsored seven times with the first sponsor, Stones Bitter continuing to be title sponsors having sponsored the old First Division since 1986. With the exception of the 2013 season, the league has had a title sponsor every year.

Period Sponsor Name
1996–1997 Stones Bitter Stones Super League
1998–1999 JJB Sports JJB Super League
2000–2004 Tetley's Bitter Tetley's Super League
2005–2011 Engage Mutual Assurance Engage Super League
2012 Stobart Group Stobart Super League
2013 no sponsor Super League
2014–2016 First Utility First Utility Super League
2017–2026 Betfred Betfred Super League

As well as title sponsorship, Super League has a number of official partners and suppliers.[31] For the 2017 season these include Kingstone Press Cider, Dacia, Foxy Bingo, Batchelors and Specsavers.

The official rugby ball supplier is Steeden.[32]

[edit]

logo used from 1996 to 2016

The Super League has had three official logos. The first was used from the inaugural season in 1996 until 2016. The logo had the Super League S with Super above it and League below it. The title sponsors name would appear above the logo until 2014 when title sponsors First Utility used their own personalised logos that appeared on player shirts and in the media. The reigning champions had a ribbon around the logo with champions on it until 2011.

Logo from 2017 to 2019

The second official logo was introduced in 2017 as part of a radical rebrand across British rugby league. The design was deliberately similar to new Rugby Football League (RFL) and England team logos, in order to maintain a ubiquity of public message. It had a rectangular backdrop representing the George Hotel in Huddersfield (where rugby league was originally founded), thirteen lines representing thirteen players, a chevron (a traditional design feature on many rugby league shirts) and the S which represented the ball and the Super League. The reigning champions had the right to wear a gold version of the logo on their shirts.

Ahead of the 2020 Super League season, a brand new logo was revealed. This was designed by the same company who had recently redesigned the Premier League logo and was more simplistic than previous iterations. In 2024 this was updated by the marketing firm 160/90 to three separate logos, to represent the three Super League competitions, teal for Mens', Purple for Women's and Green for Wheelchair.[33]

Criticism[edit]

Since its formation in 1996 only four teams have won the Super League, Bradford, Leeds, St. Helens and Wigan. Also, only nine teams have taken part in the Grand Final, Hull FC, Castleford Tigers, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils, and the Catalans Dragons being the other five. Eight teams have been the league leaders, however only one of these Huddersfield Giants in 2013, is a different team to those that have appeared in the grand final, meaning that only nine different teams in total have been involved in the grand final or topped the regular season table, however, 23 teams have taken part in Super League since its inception. The last grand final to feature two sides other than Wigan, Leeds, St Helens or Bradford occurred in 1991 when Hull F.C. defeated Widnes 14–4 in the premiership final.[34] This had led to the criticism that Super League is effectively uncompetitive, by perpetuating success in the hands of a small number of wealthy clubs.[35][36]

Competition rules[edit]

Overseas quota and Federation-trained players[edit]

An overseas quota restricting the maximum number of foreign players at each club has existed since the inception of the Super League in 1996.[37] However, overseas players that hold a European Union passport or come under the Kolpak ruling do not count towards the quota. This resulted in the number of non-British players at some clubs greatly exceeding the quota.

In response to concerns over the growing number of foreign players in the league, in 2007, the RFL announced plans to introduce a "homegrown player" rule to encourage clubs to develop their own players.[38] As of 2017, Super League clubs are permitted to register no more than five overseas players. Additionally, squads are also limited to a maximum of seven non-Federation trained players.[39]

Salary cap[edit]

A salary cap was first introduced to the Super League in 1998, with clubs being allowed to spend up to 50 percent of their income on player wages. From the 2002 season onwards, the cap became a fixed ceiling of £1.8 million in order to increase parity within the league.[40]

The Super League operates under a real-time salary cap system that will calculate a club's salary cap position at the start of and throughout the season:[41]

  • The combined earnings of the top 25 players must not exceed £1.825 million.
  • Clubs will only be allowed to sign a new player if they have room under the cap.
  • Clubs are allowed to spend a maximum of £50,000 on players outside the top 25 earners who have made at least one first grade appearance for the club during the year.
  • Costs for players outside of the top 25 earners who do not make a first team appearance will be unregulated.
  • Any player who has played for the same club for at least 10 consecutive seasons will have half their salary excluded from the salary cap for his 11th and subsequent seasons. This is subject to a maximum of £50,000 for any one club.
  • Clubs are allowed one "Marquee Player" who can exceed a club's salary cap as long as they can afford the players wages.

In 2017, Super League clubs approved proposals to increase the salary cap over the next three seasons, eventually rising to £2.1 million by 2020. Clubs will also be allowed to sign a second marquee player.[42]

Squad announcement system[edit]

Before each Super League fixture, each club must announce the squad of 19 players it will choose from by 2:00 pm on the second day before the match day.[41]

Media coverage[edit]

Television[edit]

Sky Sports have been the primary broadcast partner of Super League since its inaugural season in 1996. The current deal lasts between 2024 until 2026, which will see, for the first time ever, Sky Sports producing all six matches per week, and each will be broadcast live in some form.[43]

The 2024 season also saw the creation of Super League+[1], a dedicated streaming service which would broadcast four out of six matches per round live, with the other two matches on a 48-hour delay.[44]

For the 2022 and 2023 seasons, Channel 4 had the rights to broadcast ten matches, consisting of eight regular season plus two play-off games.[45] The BBC obtained the same rights as Channel 4 had, beginning from the 2024 season, with the addition of extra matches shown on the Red Button and iPlayer.

Sky Sports broadcasts live Super League games in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. Broadcasting slots occur on Thursdays and Fridays at 19:30 or 19:55 (20:00 kick off), and varying times on weekend afternoon.

Duration Broadcasters Value per year Games shown per year
1996–1999 Sky Sports ~£17 million ?
1999–2003 ~£12 million ?
2004–2008 ~£9 million ?
2009–2011 ~£18 million[b] 80
2012–2016 100
2017–2021 ~£40 million[46][b] 80[46]
2022–2023 Sky Sports[47]
Channel 4[48]
~£26 million[46] 66 + 10[46]
2024–2026 Sky Sports
BBC
Super League+
~£20 million[49] ~170[50]

Source:[51]

Highlights[edit]

In addition to Sky Sports' live coverage, BBC Sport previously broadcast a weekly highlights programme called the Super League Show, usually presented by Tanya Arnold. This was broadcast to the North West, Yorkshire, North East & Cumbria, and East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire regions on BBC One on Monday nights (after 11 pm) and was repeated nationally on BBC Two on Tuesday afternoons.[52] A national repeat was first broadcast overnight during the week since February 2008 when the then BBC Director of Sport, Roger Mosey, commented that this move was in response to the growing popularity and awareness of the sport, and the large number of requests from people who want to watch it elsewhere in the UK. The end of season play-off series was shown nationwide in a highlights package. The Super League Show is also available for streaming or download using the BBC iPlayer in the UK.

The Super League Show was cancelled ahead of the 2024 season after Super League agreed a deal with Sky Sports to show every game.

Highlights programme Duration Broadcaster
Super League Show 1999–2023 BBC

International[edit]

Internationally, Super League is shown live by eight broadcasters in eight countries and regions.

Country/ Region Broadcaster
 Australia Fox League, NITV
Africa ESPN Africa
Asia Premier Sports
 United States Fox Sports
 Canada Sportsnet
Caribbean Sports Max
 France L'Équipe
 New Zealand Sky Sport
Pacific Islands TVWan
Worldwide (Online) SuperLeague+

Radio[edit]

Talksport is an official broadcaster of Super League, broadcasting commentaries and magazine programming on Talksport 2. BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra covers more than 70 Super League games through 5 Live Rugby League each Thursday and Friday night.[53] Each 3 hour programme is presented by Dave Woods with a guest summariser (usually a Super League player or coach) and in addition to live commentary also includes interviews and debate. A 5 Live Rugby League podcast is available to download each week from the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtxd/episodes/downloads.

Super League is also covered extensively by BBC Local Radio:

Station Area
BBC Radio Humberside Hull
BBC Radio Leeds West Yorkshire
BBC Radio Manchester Salford, Wigan and Warrington.
BBC Radio Merseyside St Helens, Warrington and Widnes.

The competition is also covered on commercial radio stations:

  • Radio Yorkshire cover two matches per round featuring Yorkshire clubs.
  • BCB 106.6 (Bradford Community Broadcasting) have full match commentary on Bradford home and away.
  • Wish FM have full match commentary on Wigan and St Helens matches home and away.
  • Wire FM have full match commentary of Warrington matches home and away.
  • Grand Sud FM covers every Catalans Dragons Home Match (in French).
  • Radio France Bleu Roussillon covers every Catalans Dragons Away Match (in French).

All Super League commentaries on any station are available via the particular stations on-line streaming.

Internet[edit]

ESPN3, formerly ESPN360, has had worldwide broadband rights since 2007 when they broadcast the 2007 Grand Final.

Since 9 April 2009, all of the matches shown on Sky Sports have also been available live online via Livestation everywhere in the world excluding the US, Puerto Rico, UK, Ireland, France, Monaco, Australia and New Zealand.[54] In 2016 Livestation shut down, however these matches are also available online for UK users only through Sky Go and Now TV.

In the United Kingdom, a number of commercial radio stations, along with BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the local BBC radio stations simulcast commentary of Super League games on the internet. Additionally, the 5 Live Rugby League podcast is available to download each week from the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtxd/episodes/downloads.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Active as North Wales Crusaders
  2. ^ a b A small portion of this figure covered games in the Championship

References[edit]

Inline[edit]

  1. ^ "Rugby League's Super League Europe Appoints New Director" (Press release). Leeds: Super League Europe. Sportcal. 16 February 2001. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  2. ^ "'Why do they call it Super League Europe'? French club coach fuming after promotion snub". stuff.co.nz. Stuff Limited. 15 December 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  3. ^ Hansard (26 April 1995). "Rugby League". UK Parliament. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  4. ^ Mike Parsons (23 June 2006). "Rugby League". Warrington Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Saints secure 2022 League Leaders Shield". Betfred Super League. 29 August 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  6. ^ a b BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  7. ^ a b RFL. "Licensing". The Rugby Football League. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  8. ^ BBC Sport (22 May 2005). "Franchise system 'is way forward'". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  9. ^ Angela Powers. "Licence to thrill". Sky Sports. Archived from the original on 25 March 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  10. ^ Gary Slater (18 June 2008). "Super League to expand to 14". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  11. ^ Sky Sports (17 June 2008). "Super League set to expand". Sky Sports. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  12. ^ BBC Sport (16 July 2008). "Clubs confident over franchises". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  13. ^ Ian Laybourn. "Leigh blast for Super League". Sporting Life. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  14. ^ BBC Sport (8 October 2010). "Five clubs in Super League queue". BBC. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  15. ^ BBC Sport (3 December 2010). "Widnes, Halifax and Barrow meet Super League deadline". BBC. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  16. ^ "Vikings awarded Super League licence". Super League Official. 31 March 2011. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Thirteen Super League licences awarded for 2012 to 2014". RFL. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
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  19. ^ Super League to become a 12-team competition from 2015. Superleague.co.uk (11 July 2013). Retrieved on 20 August 2013.
  20. ^ "RFL Chief Executive Policy Review" (PDF). RFL. September 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
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  22. ^ Westmorland, Gareth (14 September 2018). "Explained: How Super League's 2019 structure works". Hull Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  23. ^ Shaw, Matthew (21 December 2018). "RFL usher in rule changes for 2019". Total Rugby League. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Calls grow for Super League to return to the fold". Rugby Leaguer & League Express. No. 3,224. 4 May 2020. p. 3.
  25. ^ "Leigh Centurions will replace Toronto Wolfpack and play in Super League in 2021". Sky Sports. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Super League agrees new two-year TV deal". 28 April 2021.
  27. ^ Tomlinson, Daniel (3 November 2022). "Every Super League loop fixture with same formula used based on league finishes". HullLive. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  28. ^ BBC Sport (19 November 2018). "Super League: Golden-point extra time introduced for regular season from 2019". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  29. ^ Darbyshire, Drew (26 November 2020). "Super League retains six-team play-off format for 2021, Old Trafford to host Grand Final". Love Rugby League. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Saints secure 2022 League Leaders Shield". Betfred Super League. 29 August 2022. Retrieved 2 June 2024.
  31. ^ "Super League Partners". 9 August 2013. Archived from the original on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  32. ^ "Steeden become Official Match Ball Partner". www.rugby-league.com. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  33. ^ "A new look for the three Betfred Super Leagues in 2024". www.superleague.co.uk. Retrieved 7 February 2024.
  34. ^ "1991 Premiership Final: 28 Year Ago Today". www.hullfc.com.
  35. ^ "Grading criteria, overseas expansion and a digital overhaul… Inside IMG's radical plan to reimagine rugby's Super League". www.sportspromedia.com. 12 May 2023.
  36. ^ "'Super League needs a draft': Salford Red Devils chairman calls for radical overhaul of rugby league". inews.co.uk. 14 March 2023.
  37. ^ Hadfield, Dave (24 January 1996). "Tries to be given trial by television". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  38. ^ Hadfield, Dave (5 February 2007). "Overseas quotas on clubs' agenda". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  39. ^ "Operational Rules". The Rugby Football League. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  40. ^ Fisher, Michael (12 January 2001). "Salary cap to be squeezed to £1.8m". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  41. ^ a b "Competition Structure". The RFL. Archived from the original on 21 January 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  42. ^ Bower, Aaron (5 April 2017). "Super League clubs vote for salary cap rise and second marquee player". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  43. ^ "Sky Sports to show every Super League match live as part of historic new three-year TV rights deal". Sky Sports. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  44. ^ "Launching SuperLeague+". www.superleague.co.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2024.
  45. ^ Channel 4 to broadcast live Bettered Super League
  46. ^ a b c d "Rugby league in cash crisis with new Sky Sports deal down £14m a year". 29 April 2021.
  47. ^ "Sky Sports extends Super League TV deal for a further two seasons".
  48. ^ "Channel 4 to broadcast Betfred Super League in 2022".
  49. ^ "Super League set for 'UK£20m a year' Sky Sports TV rights extension". 23 August 2023.
  50. ^ "Sky Sports to show every Super League match live as part of historic new three-year TV rights deal".
  51. ^ "History of Rugby League TV Rights post 1995". 22 July 2012.
  52. ^ "BBC Super League Show: New series starts on 10 February". BBC Sport. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  53. ^ "Super League: BBC Radio 5 live sports extra to air new show". BBC Sport. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  54. ^ List of Super League games available on Livestation.com

General[edit]

  • Caplan, Phil; Doidge, Jonathan R. (2006). Super League – the first ten years. The History Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7524-3698-2.

External links[edit]