Championship (rugby league)

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Championship (rugby league)
Country England
Other club(s) from Wales
Founded 2003
Number of teams 12 (as of 2015)
Levels on pyramid 1
Promotion to Super League (as of 2015)
Relegation to League One
Domestic cup(s) Challenge Cup
Current champions Sheffield Eagles
Most championships Salford Red Devils, Castleford Tigers, Sheffield Eagles (2 titles)
TV partners Sky Sports (Grand Final Only)
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, Championship 1. It is organized by the Rugby Football League, the governing body for the sport in the UK. In 2014 it will be contested by fourteen teams, thirteen from England and one from Wales.

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 Sheffield Eagles. Due to the games re-structure the names were changed to Championship and League 1 in time for the 2015 season, as both Bradford Bulls and London Broncos were relegated to form 2 leagues (Championship with 12 teams and League 1 with 14 sides) that would split after all league games were completed to form 3 leagues of 8 clubs and League 1 sides will complete there season off.


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.



After the 2009 season there is no 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 will be no relegation from the Championship. The RFL have 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 2013.1


Co-Operative Championship Trophy
Co-Operative Championship Trophy.

A play-off structure is used to determine the winners of the Championship. Two teams are 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 are a top-six format.

2015 Season, Promotion to Super League

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.

Points system

A special system for awarding competition points operates in The Co-operative Championship competitions.

  • 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 teams.

The Summer Bash

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.2

Championship Cup

A cup competition, the Championship Cup, is played for by clubs in the Championship and Championship 1; in 2005 four League Three clubs were also admitted, in 2006 five League Three were admitted. The teams are organised into regional conferences, with knock-out stages following from the group stage. In 2007 four Rugby League Conference teams were also included.

The competition is currently sponsored by Northern Rail and, with the final played at Blackpool FC's Bloomfield Road, has grown to become one of rugby league's annual marquee events. The cup was retired in 2013.

2014 structure

  Reigning champions
  Defending Northern Rail Cup Champions
Team & Current Season 2013 Position Stadium Capacity Location
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders 12th Craven Park 7,600 Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Batley colours.svg Batley Bulldogs 5th Stadium 6,000 Batley, West Yorkshire
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury Rams 7th Tetley's Stadium 3,500 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster 6th Keepmoat Stadium 15,231 Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers 1st Bigfellas Stadium 6,750 Featherstone, West Yorkshire
Faxcolours.svg Halifax 3rd The Shay Stadium 14,061 Halifax, West Yorkshire
Cougscolours.svg Keighley Cougars 11th Cougar Park 7,800 Keighley, West Yorkshire
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 4th Leigh Sports Village 12,700 Leigh, Greater Manchester
NWCrucolours.png North Wales Crusaders 1st (Championship 1) Racecourse Ground 10,500 (15,500 with The Kop open) Wrexham, Wales
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale Hornets 3rd (Championship 1) Spotland 10,249 Rochdale, Greater Manchester
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles 2nd Owlerton Stadium 4,000 Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton Lions 10th Leigh Sports Village 12,700 Leigh, Greater Manchester
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven 9th Recreation Ground 7,500 Whitehaven, Cumbria
Workingtoncolours.svg Workington Town 8th Derwent Park 10,000 Workington, Cumbria


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

National Leagues 2002–2008

Season League Leaders Promoted Relegated Relegated from Super League League Two Champions Also promoted to League One
2003 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
  • In 2008 the Traditional Promotion and Relegation system between Supeleague and the National league was scrapped. It was replaced with a Licensing system, which clubs could only apply for on a 3 year basis, with Salford City Reds & Crusaders being the only two successful clubs to benefit from the 2008 licensing round.

Championship 2009–present

Season Sponsorship Grand Final Winners League Leaders Successful Super
League Applicant
Relegated from Super League Relegated from Championship Promoted to
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 N/A Bradford Bulls
London Broncos
Barrow Raiders
Swinton Lions
Rochdale Hornets
North Wales Crusaders
Keighley Cougars


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

Reserve Grade

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.


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


  1. ^ "Bold future awaits new-look Championships" (Press release). Rugby Football League. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  2. ^ BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 

External links

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