RFL announces plan to change structure of Championship and League One on eve of new season

Rugby League chiefs have confirmed a change in the structure of the Championship and League One, two days prior to the start of the new second-tier season on Friday.

Aimed at equalising the number of teams in each of the second and third tiers to 12 by 2026, only one club will be automatically promoted from League One at the end of the upcoming campaign.

The bottom two clubs in the Championship will still be relegated, with the third-bottom team facing a one-off tie against the winners of the League One play-offs to complete the make-up of the 2025 season.

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A Super Eights-style competition between the lower-ranked Championship clubs and the leading League One sides will then be introduced in 2025, with the addition of a new club – potentially as early as next year – completing the levelling-up process for the start of 2026.

The changes were hastened by the respective withdrawals of West Wales Raiders and London Skolars in recent seasons, leaving the current League One with only nine clubs, as opposed to 14 in the Championship.

Favourites Wakefield Trinity face Bradford Bulls, while Sheffield Eagles take on Toulouse Olympique in Friday’s Championship openers, the first season in which the introduction of IMG grading criteria means automatic promotion to Super League is no longer assured.

RFL chief executive Tony Sutton said: “The RFL began this process last September, and following significant feedback and consultation with clubs, a final proposal has been presented.

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“A reorganisation to produce two divisions of 12 clubs beneath the Betfred Super League will provide greater consistency and clarity across all three competitions, and also increase the intensity and quality of the Betfred Championship.

The Championship campaign gets under way at Belle Vue on Friday night. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)The Championship campaign gets under way at Belle Vue on Friday night. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
The Championship campaign gets under way at Belle Vue on Friday night. (Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

“However there was a recognition that it would be unfair to reduce the Championship from 14 clubs to 12 clubs in a single season – so we have allowed a more gradual transition over two seasons, meaning a 13-team Championship in 2025.”

The RFL confirmed that an application process will be launched for the new club to join League One in 2025, with the RFL board set to make a decision in September.

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