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 League 1
Domestic cup(s) Challenge Cup
Current champions
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions (3rd Title)
Most championships
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions (3 Titles)
TV partners Sky Sports Super 8's Qualifiers Only
Website championship
2016 RFL 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, and currently consists of 12 teams. The current champions are Leigh Centurions.

The current incarnation of second division rugby league in England dates to 2003, when the Northern Ford Premiership was split into National League One and National League Two. In 2009 the league names were changed to the Championship and Championship 1, with the latter being rechristened League 1 in 2015.


1902–1973: Establishment and regular competition

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

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.

The record crowd for a club game at this level of competition was set in 2008 at the Stobart Stadium when Widnes Vikings defeated Salford City Reds 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

In 2009 the league was rebranded from National League One to The Championship and the system of automatic promotion and relegation with Super League was scrapped and replaced by a licensing system which saw clubs awarded a Super League place based on their facilities, finances and overall strength over a three-year period. In this way Salford City Reds and Celtic Crusaders were awarded places in an expanded 14-team Super League competition beginning in 2009 (although both these clubs contested the 2008 National League 1 Grand Final and so would have also been promoted under the previous automatic system).

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.

First licensing period

From 2009 through 2011 two teams were relegated from the Championship to Championship 1. At the end of the three-year period, Widnes Vikings were promoted via the licensing system to replace Crusaders for the 2012 Super League season.

Second licensing period

In 2012, the Championship was expanded to 14 teams to accommodate an expansion of Championship 1.

2015–Present: Super 8s

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.[1]

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:[2][3]

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


Championship clubs
Colours Club Established City Stadium Capacity*
Batley colours.svg
Batley Bulldogs 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire Fox's Biscuits Stadium 7,500
Bradford Bulls 1907 Bradford, West Yorkshire Provident Stadium 27,491
Dewsbury Rams 1898 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire Tetley's Stadium 5,800
Featherstone Rovers 1902 Featherstone, West Yorkshire Bigfellas Stadium 8,000
Halifax 1873 Halifax, West Yorkshire The MBi Shay 14,000
Leigh colours.svg
Leigh Centurions 1878 Leigh, Greater Manchester Leigh Sports Village 11,000
London Broncos 1980 Ealing, London Trailfinders Sports Ground 3,176
Oldham Roughyeds 1876 Stalybridge, Greater Manchester Bower Fold 6,500
Sheffeagles colours.svg
Sheffield Eagles 1984 Sheffield, South Yorkshire Sheffield Hallam University 3,000
Swinton Lions 1866 Swinton, Greater Manchester Park Lane 3,000
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

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

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

Super 8s

  • 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 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
File:Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
HKRcolours.svg Hull KR
Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham Roughyeds
File:Yorkcolours.svg York City Knights
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
File: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
File:Widnes colours.svg Widnes Vikings
Barrowcolours.svg Barrow Raiders
File:ToulouseRLcolours.PNG Toulouse Olympique
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield Eagles
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
File: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
File: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
Doncaster colours.svg Doncaster
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet Hawks
Fevcolours.svg Featherstone Rovers
2016 TBD 0–4 Teams 2 Teams TBD 0–4 Teams


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
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 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 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.

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.

Match officials

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 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


  1. Super League to become a 12-team competition from 2015. (11 July 2013). Retrieved on 20 August 2013.
  4. BBC Sport (19 May 2005). "Super League set for 2009 changes". BBC. Retrieved 18 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links