Full details of the exciting new league structure that will come into operation in 2015 for Rugby League’s professional and semi-professional competitions have been outlined.
From next season the First Utility Super League and Kingstone Press Championship will both feature 12 clubs, whilst Kingstone Press Championship One will be renamed as Kingstone Press League 1 and comprise 14 clubs.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood said: “The changes will ensure that every minute of every match in every competition matters and are being implemented following the most comprehensive consultation process in the sport’s history.
“The return of promotion and relegation in a format that is financially sustainable for all clubs should ensure fans are entertained from February to October, with an exciting season punctuated by a series of world-class events commencing with the World Club Challenge and finishing at Old Trafford with the Super League Grand Final.”
Super League and Championship clubs will each play 23 matches in the regular season – home and away against the other clubs in their respective competitions plus Magic Weekend or Summer Bash.
At the end of the regular season, Super League and the Championship will split into the Super 8s, three groups of eight clubs based on league positions called Super League, The Qualifiers and Championship Shield.
Super League features the top eight Super League clubs; The Qualifiers comprises Super League clubs nine to 12 plus the top four Championship clubs; and the Championship Shield features Championship clubs five to 12.
The Super 8s will be played on a seven match mini-league basis, and will largely determine the make-up of Super League and the Championship the following season.
In Super League, all eight clubs are guaranteed top flight status for the following year whilst the top four will contest a play-off series - 1st v 4th and 2nd v 3rd, with the winner going through to the title-deciding Grand Final.
In the qalifiers, the top three clubs after seven matches will play in Super League the following season with the final place determined by the Million Pound Game, a play-off between the clubs finishing 4th and 5th.
The loser of the match will join the three remaining clubs from The Qualifiers and six Championship Shield clubs in the Championship the following season.
In the Championship Shield, the top four clubs with contest a play-off series with the winners contesting the Championship Shield final. The bottom two teams in the Championship Shield will be relegated to League 1.
The 14 League 1 clubs will each play 22 games – 11 home and 11 away, playing each other once and nine teams twice with fixtures scheduled on a geographical basis. At the end of the regular season 1st will place 2nd with the winner promoted to the Championship as champions. The loser of that match will join the teams that finished 3rd, 4th and 5th in a play-off to determine the second promotion spot.
The 14 League 1 clubs will also be joined by the 2014 National Conference League Grand Final winners and the 2014 RFL Conference Challenge Cup winners in a new knockout competition played at the start of the season.
To allow for the changes to the league structure, the top eight Super League clubs will join the Challenge Cup at the sixth round stage, with League 1 clubs entering at Round 3, Championship clubs at Round 4 and the bottom four Super League clubs at Round 5.