Championship (rugby league)
|Current season or competition:
2014 RFL Championship
|Sport||Rugby league football|
|Number of teams||14|
|Champions||Sheffield Eagles (2013)|
|Broadcast partner||Premier Sports|
|Related competitions||Championship 1
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
|Defending Northern Rail Cup Champions|
- See also Rugby Football League Championship Second Division for winners of the old Second Division.
|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
|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
|Salford City Reds||Crusaders||Featherstone Rovers|
|2008||Salford City Reds||Salford City Reds
|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.
|Season||Sponsorship||Grand Final Winners||League Leaders||Successful Super
|Relegated from Super League||Relegated from Championship||Promoted to
|2009||Co-Operative||Barrow Raiders||Barrow Raiders||N/A||N/A||Doncaster
|2010||Halifax||Featherstone Rovers||N/A||N/A||Keighley Cougars
York City Knights
|2011||Featherstone Rovers||Featherstone Rovers||Widnes Vikings||N/A||Barrow Raiders
|2012||Sheffield Eagles||Featherstone Rovers||N/A||N/A||N/A League expansion in 2013||Doncaster
|2013||Kingstone Press||Sheffield Eagles||Featherstone Rovers||N/A||N/A||York City Knights
|North Wales Crusaders
From 2012 onwards a game from every round of the Championship will be broadcast live on Thursday's on Premier Sports.
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.
- British rugby league system
- Super League
- Rugby League Conference
- Northern Ford Premiership
- Championship Cup
- Rugby League Reserve Team Championship
- "Bold future awaits new-look Championships" (Press release). Rugby Football League. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Official Championship website
- RFL Championship coverage
- Scores from Sky Sports
- RugbyLeague.org Championship Fans Forums
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