Championship (rugby league)

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Current season or competition::
2018 Rugby League Championship
Championship logo
Sport Rugby league
Instituted 2008–present (as the Championship)
2003–2007 (as National League One)
Inaugural season 2003
Number of teams 12
Countries  England (10 teams)
 France (1 team)
 Canada (1 team)
Champions HKRcolours.svg Hull KR (2nd title) (2017)
Most titles Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions (4 titles)
Website kingstone press leagues
Broadcast partner Sky Sports
Related competition Challenge Cup
Promotion to Super League
Relegation to League 1

The Championship (referred to as the Kingstone Press Championship for sponsorship reasons) is a professional rugby league competition predominately based in England.[1] It is the second-tier competition organised by the Rugby Football League, the governing body for the sport in the UK, and currently consists of 12 teams with promotion to the Super League and relegation to the third-tier competition, League 1. The current champions are Hull Kingston Rovers.

From 2003 to 2009, the league was known as National League One.


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. 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[edit]

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.

2009–2014: Championship[edit]

In 2009 Super League was expanded to 14 teams, with two additional teams being promoted from National League One; in turn, two additional teams were promoted from National League Two to National League One at the end of the 2008 season, reducing the number of teams in National League Two to 10. National Leagues One and Two were then rebranded as the Championship and Championship 1 respectively, with the change being implemented in time for the 2009 season. Championship 1 was later rebranded to League 1, during this period, a system of licensing was put in place which meant there was no automatic system of promotion and relegation between the Championship and Super League, although promotion and relegation continued between the Championship and League 1. Widnes Vikings were promoted to Super League from the Championship via the licensing system in 2011.

The record crowd for a club game at this level of competition was set in 2017 at KCOM Craven Park for the opening fixture of the season between Hull Kingston Rovers and Bradford Bulls with Rovers winning 54-24 in front of a crowd of 8,817, the crowd record for regular season attendance was also broken in 2008 with an average of 2,205 spectators at each game.

2015–Present: Super 8s[edit]

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.[2]

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:[3][4]

  • The 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 League 1. Two clubs will be relegated each year.


Championship clubs
Colours Club Established Location Stadium Capacity*
Barrow Raiders 1875 Barrow, Cumbria Craven Park 7,600
Batley colours.svg
Batley Bulldogs 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire Mount Pleasant 7,500
Dewsbury Rams 1898 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire Crown Flatt 5,800
Featherstone Rovers 1902 Featherstone, West Yorkshire Post Office Road 8,000
Halifax 1873 Halifax, West Yorkshire The Shay 14,000
Leigh colours.svg
Leigh Centurions 1878 Leigh, Greater Manchester Leigh Sports Village 12,000
London Broncos 1980 Ealing, London Trailfinders Sports Ground 3,176
Rochdale colours.svg
Rochdale Hornets 1866 Rochdale, Greater Manchester Spotland 10,000
Sheffeagles colours.svg
Sheffield Eagles 1999 Sheffield, South Yorkshire Olympic Legacy Park 3,000
Swinton Lions 1866 Sale, Greater Manchester Heywood Road 3,387
New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg
Toronto Wolfpack 2016 Toronto, Ontario Lamport Stadium 9,600
Toulouse Olympique 1937 Toulouse, Haute-Garonne Stade Ernest-Argeles 4,000
  • *capacity for rugby league games may differ from official stadium capacity.


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.

Summer Bash[edit]

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.[5]

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

Super 8s[edit]

  • 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.

Position Qualification
1 Super League Place
2 Super League Place
3 Super League Place
4 Million Pound Game
5 Million Pound Game
6 Championship Place
7 Championship Place
8 Championship Place
  • 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 Qualification
1 Play-off Place
2 Play-off Place
3 Play-off Place
4 Play-off Place
5 Unable to Qualify for Play-offs
6 Unable to Qualify for Play-offs
7 Relegated
8 Relegated


Year Champions Promoted Relegated
Redscolours.svg Salford
Redscolours.svg Salford
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Cougscolours.svg Keighley
Castleford colours.svg Castleford
Castleford colours.svg Castleford
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers
HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers
Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham
Yorkcolours.svg York
Castleford colours.svg Castleford
Castleford colours.svg Castleford
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Redscolours.svg Salford
Redscolours.svg Salford
Cruscolours.svg Crusaders
Ramscolours.svg Dewsbury
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
No Promotion
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Gthundercolours.svg Newcastle
Faxcolours.svg Halifax
Cougscolours.svg Keighley
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Widnes colours.svg Widnes
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
ToulouseRLcolours.PNG Toulouse
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield
No Promotion
No Relegation
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield
Yorkcolours.svg York
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton
Rochdale colours.svg Rochdale
NWCrucolours.png North Wales
Cougscolours.svg Keighley
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
Workingtoncolours.svg Workington
Haven colours.svg Whitehaven
HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers
HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers
Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham
Bullscolours.svg Bradford


Club Wins Winning years
Leigh colours.svg Leigh
4 2004, 2014, 2015, 2016
Redscolours.svg Salford
2 2003, 2008
Castleford colours.svg Castleford
2 2005, 2007
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
2 2012, 2013
HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers
2 2006, 2017
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow
1 2009
Faxcolours.svg Halifax
1 2010
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
1 2011
  • Bold – Winners decided by Grand Final


The Championship has had four sponsors since 1995. 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[disambiguation needed] LHF Healthplan National League 1
2009–2012 Cooperative Group Cooperative Championship
2013–2017 Kingstone Press Cider Kingstone Press Championship



Sky Sports and Premier Sports shared the TV rights to the Championship between 2008 and 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.

Period Broadcaster
2008–2011 Sky Sports
Premier Sports
2012–2013 Premier Sports
2014 Sky Sports
(Grand Final Only)
2015–2021 Sky Sports


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 League[edit]

In 2014 and 2015 Super League clubs were unhappy with the Dual registration system and wanted to form a Under 23 reserve leagues between the Under 19s and 1st team. Wigan, Warrington and St Helens were the first teams to propose the return of the reserve league where players could move from the under 19s and play with professional players before playing in the 1st team. A reserve league was set up in 2016 with a mixture of Super League, Championship and League 1 teams.

Dual registration[edit]

Clubs in both the Super League and the Championships benefit from the new dual registration system which was introduced for the 2013 season,[6] the new system is intended to complement the existing player loan system.

Dual registration refers to an arrangement between clubs whereby a player continues to be registered to his current Super League club and is also registered to play for a club in the Championship, the system is aimed at young Super League players who are thought to be not quite ready to make the step up to ‘week in, week out’ Super League first team duties but for whom first team match experience is likely to be beneficial for their development.

  • Only Super League players can be dual registered and the receiving club must be a club in the Championships, meaning that Super League to Super League club dual registrations are not available.
  • A dual registered player will be eligible to play and train with both clubs in a format agreed between the clubs, subject to registration, salary cap and competition eligibility rules.
  • The player is restricted to playing in one fixture per scheduled round of fixtures in any given week and would not be eligible to play for his Super League club on a Thursday and in a Championship fixture at the weekend, for example.
  • A receiving club will be limited to a total of five dual registered players per matchday squad.

Match officials[edit]

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 F.C. 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.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]