|Current season, competition or edition:|
Super League XXVII
|No. of teams||12|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Domestic cup(s)||Challenge Cup|
|International cup(s)||World Club Challenge|
The Super League (SL), sponsored as the Betfred Super League and officially known as Super League Europe, is the top-level of the British rugby league system. At present the league consists of twelve teams, of which ten are from Northern England, reflecting the sport's geographic heartland within the UK, and two from southern France.
The Super League began in 1996, replacing the existing First Division and, significantly, switching from a traditional winter season to a summer season.
Each team plays 27 games between February and September: 11 home games, 11 away games, Magic Weekend and an additional 4 'loop fixtures' decided by league positions. The top six then enter the play-off series leading to the Grand Final which determines the champions. The bottom team is relegated to the Championship.
In a recent tradition, the Super League champions play the National Rugby League champions from Australasia in the World Club Challenge at the start of the following season.
See also: List of Super League seasons
A "super league" competition was first mooted during the Australian Super League war as a way for Rupert Murdoch to gain the upper hand during the battle for broadcasting supremacy with the Australian Rugby League. Murdoch also approached the British clubs to form an equivalent northern hemisphere Super League. A £77 million offer and an £87 million payment aided the decision, and the competition got under way in 1996. Part of the deal saw rugby league switch from a winter to a summer season. The 12 founding teams of Super League were:
Initially, several mergers between existing clubs were proposed:
They were to be included in the new Super League with the following stand-alone clubs: Bradford Northern, Halifax, Leeds, London Broncos, Paris Saint-Germain, St Helens and Wigan.
However this proposal proved hugely unpopular as it would have meant the end of many historic and viable clubs, and consequently only existing clubs were selected for the competition. The clubs finishing below 10th in the existing top flight were excluded, which meant Featherstone Rovers, Hull, Wakefield Trinity and Widnes were left out, as were Keighley who had just won the Second Division Championship. London Broncos, who had come fourth in the Second Division, were "fast-tracked" in with the RFL arguing it was an absolute commercial necessity to have a presence in the nation's capital city. A brand new team, Paris Saint-Germain, was created to give the new league a French dimension. Between 1998 and 2000 there was no relegation from the Super League.
After two years Paris were dropped from the competition. Promotion and relegation between Super League and the Rugby League National Leagues was re-introduced, and in 2002 the Super League governing body re-integrated fully into the Rugby Football League (RFL). In 2006, French side Catalans Dragons (also known as UTC or Les Catalans) from Perpignan joined the league, becoming the second non-English team to compete. To facilitate this move, two clubs were relegated from Super League at the end of the 2005 season: Leigh who finished bottom of the league were replaced by the one club coming up from the National Leagues and Widnes who finished 11th (and would have stayed up any other year) were dropped for Les Catalans, thus the number of clubs in Super League remained at 12.
Main article: Super League licensing
Super League licences were announced in May 2005 by the RFL as the new determinant of the Super League competition's participants from 2009 in place of the traditional promotion and relegation between leagues. The licences were awarded after consideration of more factors than simply the on-the-field performance of a club. After 2007 automatic promotion and relegation was suspended for Super League with new teams to be admitted on a licence basis with the term of the licence to start in 2009.
The RFL stated that clubs applying to compete in Super League would be assessed by criteria in four areas (stadium facilities, finance and business performance, commercial and marketing and playing strength, including junior production and development) with the final evaluations and decisions being taken by the RFL board of directors.
Successful applicants were licensed for three years of Super League competition and three-yearly reviews of Super League membership took place to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful.
Points attained by each club's application are translated into licence grades A, B or C. Clubs who achieved an A or B Licence would be automatically awarded a place in the Super League, while those who achieved a C Licence underwent further scrutiny before the RFL decided who made the final cut.
First licensing period
Main article: 2009–11 Super League licences
In June 2008, the RFL confirmed that the Super League would be expanded from 12 teams to 14 in 2009, and on 22 July 2008 the RFL confirmed the teams awarded licences. The teams announced were the 12 existing Super League teams along with National League 1 teams, Celtic Crusaders and Salford. Celtic Crusaders becoming the first Welsh team to play in Super League and the only team to be awarded a licence who had never played in the Super League previously.
Featherstone Rovers, Halifax, Leigh and Widnes all failed to attain a licence. Leigh and Widnes, especially, were disappointed with their exclusions with Leigh's chairman being extremely critical of the RFL.
Second licensing period
Main article: 2012–14 Super League licences
For the 2012–14 seasons Championship sides Batley, Barrow, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax and Widnes all met the on-field criteria needed to submit an application, but despite this only Barrow, Halifax and Widnes decided to submit an application. On 31 March 2011 Widnes were awarded a Super League licence; Barrow, did not meet the criteria and were refused a licence; and Halifax's application was to be further considered alongside the other Super League clubs.
The Rugby Football League's final decision was announced on 26 July 2011, Widnes would be joining thirteen existing Super League teams with Crusaders RL having withdrawn their application and Halifax not meeting the criteria. Crusaders CEO Rod Findlay stated that the club's finances were not in a good enough condition to justify their place in Super League. Halifax chairman Mark Steele was critical of the decision to award Wakefield a licence over themselves, saying "If you compare Belle Vue with the Shay, it's no contest; if you compare playing records, it's no contest; and if you compare the financial position, we have kept our head above water and they haven't." Wakefield had been favourites to lose their licence before Crusaders' withdrawal.
Main article: Rugby League Super 8s
At the 2013 Annual General Meeting at Bradford, the Super League clubs agreed to reduce the number of clubs to 12 from 2015, and also for a return of Promotion and Relegation with a 12 club Championship.
The 12 First Utility Super League and 12 Kingstone Press Championship clubs played each other home and away over 22 "rounds", plus a Magic Weekend for both divisions, making a 23-game regular season. Following the conclusion of their regular league seasons, the 24 clubs then competed in a play-off series where they split into 3 leagues of 8 based upon league position:
Funding for clubs was tiered in both leagues to prevent relegation-related financial difficulties.
In June 2015 8 of the 12 Super League clubs voted to allow a Marquee Player that could exceed a clubs salary cap as long as they can afford their wages. The marquee player rule came into force for the 2016 Super League season.
On 14 September 2018, an EGM was called to discuss the future of the sport and a change in structure, as the clubs were in favour of scrapping the Super 8s in favour of a more conventional structure. The Super League clubs voted to split from the RFL and appoint their own CEO to have more control over TV and sponsorship money as well as scrapping the Super 8s but retaining promotion and relegation to appease the Championship clubs. After the 2020 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom there were calls made from Super League clubs for the two executive bodies – Super League and the RFL – to re-amalgamate.
As of 14 December 2020, it was decided by unanimous vote that the Leigh Centurions would take the 12th spot in the 26th Super League season, replacing the Toronto Wolfpack who withdrew from the league as a result of financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. This came after the RFL temporarily removed promotion and relegation for the 2020 season in response to the pandemic.
Sky Sports TV deal for the Super League and lower divisions was cut from £40 million to £25 million per year for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
12 teams compete in the Super League. They play each other twice on a home-and-away basis, interrupted by the Magic Weekend round in May. The 12 clubs also play 6 loop fixtures to bring the number of games in a season to 29. The team finishing bottom after 29 rounds collects the Wooden Spoon, and is relegated, while the team finishing first is awarded the League Leaders Shield. The top 5 teams at the end of the season enter the playoffs.
Super League adopted Golden point during regular season for the first time in 2019, bringing it in line with the NRL which had been using the system since 2003.
Main article: Magic Weekend
In an attempt to expand out of the traditional rugby league "heartlands", and promote the game to a wider audience, the RFL has staged games in large stadiums in places without an existing rugby league presence. The "Magic Weekend" concept, which involves staging an entire round of Super League matches over a weekend in a single stadium, was first staged in Cardiff in 2007. Dubbed "Millennium Magic", and played in the Millennium Stadium, it proved popular with spectators and the concept was held in Cardiff again in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, the event was held in Edinburgh at the Scottish national rugby union stadium, Murrayfield, giving rise to the name changing to "Murrayfield Magic". Generally held during the May Day bank holiday weekend, 2011 saw the Magic Weekend return to Cardiff, and was this time held during the weekend 12–13 February 2011 and served as the season's opening week. From 2014 to 2018, the event was held at St James' Park in Newcastle. In 2019, the event was held at Anfield in Liverpool, before returning to Newcastle for the 2020 season.
Main article: Super League play-offs
The play-offs have had various formats. St. Helens are the only team to take part in every play-off series since the inaugural series in 1998.
For 2021 Super League XXVI will use the same six team format used in 2020; comprising three rounds. In round one, the elimination finals, the teams finishing 3rd to 6th play each other with the winners progressing to round two. Round two, the semi-finals, sees the teams finishing 1st and 2nd playing the winners of the two elimination finals. The two winners of the semi-finals meet in the Grand Final.
Main article: Super League Grand Final
The Grand Final is the championship-deciding game and showpiece event of the Super League season. It is held annually at Old Trafford, with the exception of 2020 when it was hosted at KCOM Stadium in Hull in front of no supporters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main article: Challenge Cup
The Challenge Cup is a separate cup competition, involving clubs from Super League and all levels of rugby league in Britain. It has been held annually since 1896 and has been expanded to teams in Canada, Serbia, Ireland, Russia, France, Scotland and Wales can take part. The cup runs throughout the season, and the final is usually played on the August bank holiday at Wembley Stadium. Before Super League began in 1996, the final used to take place at Wembley Stadium at the end of April or the start of May, usually 2 weeks after the regular season ended.
Further information: English rugby league venues
|Super League clubs|
|Castleford Tigersa||1926||Castleford, West Yorkshire||Wheldon Road||11,775||0 (N/A)|
|Catalans Dragons||2000||Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales||Gilbert Brutus Stadium||13,000||0 (N/A)|
|Huddersfield Giantsc||1864||Huddersfield, West Yorkshire||Kirklees Stadium||24,500||7 (1962)|
|Hull FCc||1865||Hull, East Yorkshire||Hull City Stadium||25,400||6 (1983)|
|Hull Kingston Rovers||1882||Hull, East Yorkshire||Craven Park||12,225||5 (1985)|
|Leeds Rhinosabc||1870||Leeds, West Yorkshire||Headingley Stadium||19,700||11 (2017)|
|Salford Red Devils||1873||Salford, Greater Manchester||Salford City Stadium||12,000||6 (1976)|
|St Helensabc||1873||St Helens, Merseyside||Totally Wicked Stadium||18,000||16 (2021)|
|Toulouse Olympique||1937||Toulouse, Haute-Garonne||Stade Ernest-Wallon||19,500||0 (N/A)|
|Wakefield Trinityc||1873||Wakefield, West Yorkshire||Belle Vue||9,333||2 (1968)|
|Warrington Wolvesabc||1876||Warrington, Cheshire||Halliwell Jones Stadium||15,200||3 (1955)|
|Wigan Warriorsabc||1872||Wigan, Greater Manchester||DW Stadium||25,133||22 (2018)|
a: Founding member of the Super League
b: Appeared in every Super League season since 1996
c: One of the original 22 RFL teams
See also: Rugby Football League expansion
|Former Super League clubs|
|First season in
|Last season in
|Last top |
|Celtic Crusaders §[a]||3||2009||2011||N/A|
|Paris Saint-Germain §||2||1996||1997||N/A|
|Gateshead Thunder §||1||1999||1999||N/A|
|Current Super League team|
|23||1||Withdrew after 7 rounds|
|2001||2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2003||2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2006||2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2||Salary Cap Breach|
|2007||2||Salary Cap Breach|
|4||Salary Cap Breach|
|2013||2||Fielding Extra Man|
|2016||6||Salary Cap Breach|
Main article: RFL Reserve Championship
In 2014 and 2015 Super League clubs were unhappy with the Dual registration system and wanted to form an under-23 reserve leagues between the under-19s and first teams. 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 first team. A reserve league was set up in 2016 with a mixture of Super League, Championship and League 1 teams.
Main article: Rugby League Dual registration
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.
Main article: Super League Under 19s
In 2017 the following teams will run in each of the Senior Academy divisions: Super League Academy – U19s:
For top flight results before 1996, see Rugby Football League Championship First Division.
For the all-time list of champions since 1895, see List of British rugby league champions.
The league format changed in 1998 and the championship became a play-off series to determine the Super League champions. This meant a reintroduction of a final to determine the European champions, the first since the 1972–73 season. For the first 2 seasons of Super League, there was no Grand Final – The winners of the league were the team that finished top, as before in the previous Championship leagues.
|1||9||5||1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021|
|2||8||2||2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017|
|3||5||6||1998, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018|
|4||4||3||1997, 2001, 2003, 2005|
Main article: The Double (rugby league)
In rugby league, the term 'the Double' refers to the achievement of a club that wins both the top division and the Challenge Cup in the same season. To date, this has been achieved by ten different clubs in total, six of which occasions have been during the Super League era.
|1||7||1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, |
1993–94, 1994–95, 2013
|2||4||1965–66, 1996, 2006, 2021|
Main article: The Treble (rugby league)
The Treble refers to the team who wins all three domestic honours on offer during the season; Grand Final, League Leaders' Shield and Challenge Cup. To date seven teams have won the treble, only Bradford Bulls, St. Helens and Leeds Rhinos have won the treble in the Super League era.
|1||3||1991–92, 1992–93, 1994–95|
Main article: The Treble (rugby league) § Further Achievement
The Quadruple refers to winning the Super League, League Leaders' Shield, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge in one season.
|Year||Teams Relegated||Other Removals|
|1998: No relegation|
|2000: No relegation|
|2008–2013: No relegation due to licensing system|
Main article: League Leaders' Shield
The League Leaders' Shield is awarded to the team finishing the regular season top of Super League; this is also known as a minor premiership. The League Leader's Shield was introduced only in 2003, previously no prize was awarded to the team finishing top following the introduction of the Grand Final.
|1||9||1996, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2018, 2019|
|2||5||1998, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2020|
|3||4||1997, 1999, 2001, 2003|
|4||3||2004, 2009, 2015|
The winner of the Grand Final is given the Super League Trophy as Super League Champions. This is considered more prestigious than the minor premiership. Each year, the year of a champion team's triumph, team name and team Rugby league football captain are engraved.
The record for most Super League titles won is held by St Helens with nine titles. Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield currently holds the record for captaining the most Super League title winning sides after captaining Leeds to their first 7 grand final successes. St. Helens contested the final 6 years in a row (from 2006 until 2011) during which time they succeeded only once in lifting the trophy against Hull F.C. in 2006; after which they suffered consecutive defeats against Leeds in 2007, 2008, 2009, Wigan in 2010 and Leeds once again in 2011. However, St. Helens made a victorious return in 2014, defeating rivals, Wigan 14–6 and have since won a further three grand finals, defeating Salford in 2019, Wigan in 2020 and Catalans Dragons in 2021.
Following their 2020 defeat to St. Helens, Wigan have now broken St Helens' record of losing five Grand Finals, losing a total of six. Hull F.C. (2006), Warrington (2012, 2013, 2016, and 2018), Castleford (2017), Salford (2019), and Catalans (2021) have all appeared in the Grand Final but never won.
Main article: Man of Steel Award
The Man of Steel Award is an annual award for the best player of the season in Super League. It has continued from pre-Super League times, with the first such award given in 1977. It was renamed in honour of Steve Prescott in 2014.
Main article: Albert Goldthorpe Medal
The Albert Goldthorpe Medal is an award voted for be members of the press who cast a vote after every game of the regular season. The three players who, in the opinion of the reporter, have been the three 'best and fairest' players in the game will receive three points, two points and one point respectively. To be eligible for a vote, a player must not have been suspended from the competition at any stage during the season.
Main article: Super League Dream Team
Each season a "Dream Team" is also named. The best thirteen players in their respective positions are voted for by members of the sports press. The 2021 dream team is as follows:
|Nat.||Name||Club||Appointed||Time as head coach|
|Lee Radford||16 September 2021||329 days|
|Steve McNamara||19 June 2017||5 years, 53 days|
|Ian Watson||19 November 2020||1 year, 265 days|
|Brett Hodgson||25 November 2020||1 year, 259 days|
|Danny McGuire*||4 July 2022||38 days|
|Rohan Smith||20 April 2022||113 days|
|Paul Rowley||5 November 2021||279 days|
|Kristian Woolf||13 October 2019||2 years, 302 days|
|Sylvain Houles||11 May 2012||10 years, 92 days|
|Willie Poching||10 August 2021||1 year, 1 day|
|Daryl Powell||25 September 2021||320 days|
|Matty Peet||5 October 2021||310 days|
The Super League has been won by 15 coaches, 10 from Australia, 4 from England and 1 from New Zealand.
|Head Coach||Wins||Winning years|
|1||Brian McDermott||4||2011, 2012, 2015, 2017|
|2||Brian Noble||3||2001, 2003, 2005|
|3||Shaun Wane||3||2013, 2016, 2018|
|4||Ian Millward||2||2000, 2002|
|5||Tony Smith||2||2004, 2007|
|6||Brian McClennan||2||2008, 2009|
|7||Kristian Woolf||2||2020, 2021|
Statistics correct as of 31 July 2022
|1||Tony Smith||Huddersfield (2001, 2003)
Hull KR (2019–2022)
|2=||Daryl Powell||Leeds (2001–2003)
|2=||Brian McDermott||London (2007–2010)
|4||Brian Noble||Bradford (2001–2006)
|5||Shaun McRae||St. Helens (1996–1998)
Salford (2007, 2009–2011)
|6||John Kear||Sheffield (1997–1999),
|7||Steve McNamara||Bradford (2006–2010),
|8||Richard Agar||Hull (2006, 2008–2011),
|9||Ian Millward||St. Helens (2000–2005)
|10||Shaun Wane||Wigan (2012–2018)||208|
|11||Lee Radford||Hull (2014–2020)
Main article: List of Super League records
|1||James Roby||2004–present||St. Helens||462|
|3||Andy Lynch||1999–2017||Castleford, Bradford, Hull, Castleford||452|
|4||Paul Wellens||1998–2015||St. Helens||439|
|5||Jamie Peacock||1998–2015||Bradford, Leeds||438|
|6||Leon Pryce||1998–2016||Bradford, St. Helens, Hull, Catalans||432|
|7||Ben Westwood||1999–2019||Wakefield, Warrington||430|
|9||Danny Tickle||2000–2018||Halifax, Wigan, Hull FC, Widnes,
Castleford, Leigh, Hull KR
|10||Keith Senior||1996– 2011||Sheffield, Leeds||413|
|11||Lee Gilmour||1997–2014||Wigan, Bradford, St. Helens, Huddersfield,
|12||Danny McGuire||2001–2019||Leeds, Hull KR||408|
|14||Lee Briers||1997–2013||St. Helens, Warrington||402|
|15||Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook||2006–present||London, St. Helens||397|
|St. Helens, Toronto||385|
|17||Paul Deacon||1997–2011||Oldham, Bradford, Wigan||384|
|18||Keiron Cunningham||1996–2010||St. Helens||382|
|19||Danny Orr||1997–2012||Castleford, Wigan, London, Castleford||381|
|22||Kevin Brown||2003–2021||Wigan, Huddersfield, Widnes,
|23||Jon Clarke||1997–2014||Wigan, London, Warrington, Widnes||360|
|24||Stuart Fielden||1998–2013||Bradford, Wigan, Huddersfield||359|
|26||Mickey Higham||2001–2017||St. Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Leigh||352|
|1||Danny McGuire||2001–2019||Leeds, Hull KR||247|
|Leeds, Hull KR||223|
|Hull KR, Wigan,
|4=||Paul Wellens||1998–2015||St. Helens||199|
|4=||Keith Senior||1996–2011||Sheffield, Leeds||199|
|Hull FC, Wakefield x2,
|3||Paul Deacon||1997–2011||Oldham, Bradford, Wigan||2,415|
|5||Pat Richards||2006–2013, 2016||Wigan, Catalans||2,280|
11 players have captained teams to win the Super League.
|1||Kevin Sinfield||7||2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015|
|2||Sean O'Loughlin||4||2010, 2013, 2016, 2018|
|3||Chris Joynt||3||1999, 2000, 2002|
|4||Robbie Paul||3||1997, 2001, 2003|
|5||James Roby||3||2019, 2020, 2021|
|2000||Sean Long & Tommy Martyn||22||both |
|2011||Ryan Hall & Sam Tomkins||28|
The Super League has had three official logos. The first was used from the inaugural season in 1996 until 2016. The logo had the Super League S with Super above it and League below it. The title sponsors name would appear above the logo until 2014 when title sponsors First Utility used their own personalised logos that appeared on player shirts and in the media. The reigning champions had a ribbon around the logo with champions on it until 2011.
The second official logo was introduced in 2017 as part of a radical rebrand across British rugby league. The design was deliberately similar to new Rugby Football League (RFL) and England team logos, in order to maintain a ubiquity of public message. It had a rectangular backdrop representing the George Hotel in Huddersfield (where rugby league was originally founded), thirteen lines representing thirteen players, a chevron (a traditional design feature on many rugby league shirts) and the S which represented the ball and the Super League. The reigning champions had the right to wear a gold version of the logo on their shirts.
Ahead of the 2020 Super League season, a brand new logo was revealed. This was designed by the same company who had recently redesigned the Premier League logo and was more simplistic than previous iterations.
Main article: English rugby league sponsorship
Super League has been sponsored since its formation, apart from the 2013 season.
The title sponsor has been able to determine the league's sponsorship name. There have been seven title sponsors since the league's formation:
|1996–1997||Stones Bitter||Stones Super League|
|1998–1999||JJB Sports||JJB Super League|
|2000–2004||Tetley's Bitter||Tetley's Super League|
|2005–2011||Engage Mutual Assurance||Engage Super League|
|2012||Stobart Group||Stobart Super League|
|2013||no sponsor||Super League|
|2014–2016||First Utility||First Utility Super League|
|2017–2023||Betfred||Betfred Super League|
As well as title sponsorship, Super League has a number of official partners and suppliers. For the 2017 season these include Kingstone Press Cider, Dacia, Foxy Bingo, Batchelors and Specsavers.
The official rugby ball supplier is Steeden.
An overseas quota restricting the maximum number of foreign players at each club has existed since the inception of the Super League in 1996. However, overseas players that hold a European Union passport or come under the Kolpak ruling do not count towards the quota. This resulted in the number of non-British players at some clubs greatly exceeding the quota.
In response to concerns over the growing number of foreign players in the league, in 2007, the RFL announced plans to introduce a "homegrown player" rule to encourage clubs to develop their own players. As of 2017, Super League clubs are permitted to register no more than five overseas players. Additionally, squads are also limited to a maximum of seven non-Federation trained players.
A salary cap was first introduced to the Super League in 1998, with clubs being allowed to spend up to 50 percent of their income on player wages. From the 2002 season onwards, the cap became a fixed ceiling of £1.8 million in order to increase parity within the league.
The Super League operates under a real-time salary cap system that will calculate a club's salary cap position at the start of and throughout the season:
In 2017, Super League clubs approved proposals to increase the salary cap over the next three seasons, eventually rising to £2.1 million by 2020. Clubs will also be allowed to sign a second marquee player.
Before each Super League fixture, each club must announce the squad of 19 players it will choose from by 2:00 pm on the second day before the match day.
Main article: RFL Match officials
All Super 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 Head of Match Officials and Technical Director. Former Hull F.C. player and Huddersfield Head Coach Jon Sharp was the previous Head of Match Officials. 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.
Grand Final Champions Grand Final Runners-up
Since its formation in 1996 only four teams have won the Super League (Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos, St. Helens and Wigan Warriors). Also, only nine teams have taken part in the Grand Final (Hull FC, Castleford Tigers, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils, and Catalans Dragons being the other five). Eight teams have been the league leaders, however only one of these (Huddersfield Giants) in 2013, is a different team to those that have appeared in the grand final, meaning that only nine different teams in total have been involved in the grand final or topped the regular season table, however, 23 teams have taken part in Super League since its inception. The last grand final to feature two sides other than Wigan, Leeds, St Helens or Bradford occurred in 1991 when Hull F.C. defeated Widnes 14–4. This had led to the criticism that Super League is effectively uncompetitive, by perpetuating success in the hands of a small number of wealthy clubs.
In comparison, during the same period, 12 different teams have won the Australasian National Rugby League competition and 15 different teams have appeared in the Grand Final.
Between 2009 and 2014 teams had to apply for a licence to play in Super League, which was partly awarded based on a club's financial viability; this also meant there was no longer automatic promotion from the Championship into Super League. This was highly unpopular with Championship clubs, because there was no way for them to win promotion to the higher level based purely on sporting success. Consequently, the Super League came to be seen as a closed shop for its existing members, with entry based primarily on financial capability.
Attendances in the lower divisions dropped as a result of this system, because it was felt that there was little appeal in these leagues when there was no incentive for the clubs to win the Championship. Additionally, the only time that lower division clubs got the chance to play illustrious Super League opposition was in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup. With no simple route in to the Super League, teams were further unable to compete with top division opposition because there was no way those clubs could attract good quality talent when they could not offer young players the prospect of playing at the highest level.
Most of the teams that have competed in Super League have been in the traditional English rugby league heartlands of the so-called 'M62 Corridor' between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Catalans Dragons and Toulouse Olympique are the only teams currently playing in Super League who play outside this area. Since their arrival in 2006, The Dragons have enjoyed a sustainable and competitive period in Super League which has seen them become the first non-English team to win the Challenge Cup in 2018, the League Leaders Shield in 2021, and reach the Super League Grand Final, also in 2021. Toulouse gained promotion to Super League for the 2022 season, after a victory over Featherstone Rovers on 10 October 2021 in the Million Pound Game, becoming the third French team to play in Super League and the fourth non-British team to play in the competition.
Expansion of the sport was a key policy of the Rugby Football League when Super League was created, and has consistently been considered important for the future well-being of rugby league. However, with the exception of the Catalans Dragons and the comparative long-term stability of the London Broncos, expansion clubs have not generally proved viable at the highest level. Paris Saint-Germain RL competed from the beginning of the competition but disbanded after just two seasons due to a lack of interest and investment, Gateshead Thunder had poor attendance figures and were merged with Hull after only one year in 1999, despite a strong season that saw them narrowly miss the playoffs, Celtic Crusaders joined Super League in 2009 while in Bridgend, South Wales before moving close to the M62 corridor to Wrexham, North Wales in 2010 and renamed as Crusaders RL. They reached the playoffs in 2010, but struggled on and off the pitch in 2011 before withdrawing their application for a 2012-14 licence at the 11th hour and folding at the end of the season, only lasting 3 seasons in Super League. In addition, Toronto Wolfpack lasted less than a full season in Super League, their financial problems exacerbated by international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 as they pulled out before the resumption of the 2020 season in August 2020 before being expelled from the competition later that year.
Sky Sports have been the primary broadcast partner of Super League since its inaugural season in 1996. The current deal lasts until 2021 and covers 80 matches per season, rising to 100 from 2015. They currently have the rights to show live Super League games in both Ireland and the United Kingdom; two live matches are broadcast each week – one on Thursday nights at 7:30 pm (kick off 8 pm) and another at 7:30 pm on Friday nights (kick off 8 pm). From 2014, they also simulcast all of Catalans Dragons' home games.
Detailed Sky coverage
Starting in February 2022, live matches will be broadcast on Channel 4. This will be the first time in the history of Super League that live matches have been shown on free-to-air television, and also the first time that live games have been shown on a broadcaster other than Sky Sports. The initial two-year partnership will see ten live Betfred Super League matches air on Channel 4 each season. Channel 4’s Super League coverage starts on 12 February next year when eight-time Champions Leeds Rhinos host Warrington Wolves. The remaining nine games will be spread across the season and will include two end of season play off fixtures.
In addition to Sky Sports' live coverage, BBC Sport broadcast a weekly highlights programme called the Super League Show, usually presented by Tanya Arnold. This is broadcast to the North West, Yorkshire & North Midlands, North East & Cumbria, and East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire regions on BBC 1 on Monday nights (after 11 pm) and is repeated nationally on BBC 2 on Tuesday afternoons. A national repeat was first broadcast overnight during the week since February 2008 when the then BBC Director of Sport, Roger Mosey, commented that this move was in response to the growing popularity and awareness of the sport, and the large number of requests from people who want to watch it elsewhere in the UK. The end of season play-off series is shown nationwide in a highlights package. The Super League Show is also available for streaming or download using the BBC iPlayer in the UK.
|Super League Show||1999–Present||BBC|
Internationally, Super League is shown live by eight broadcasters in eight countries and regions.
|Middle East||OSN (no longer available)|
|Sport en France|
|New Zealand||Sky Sport|
|United States||Fox Soccer Plus|
|Brazil||BandSports (no longer available)|
|Russia||NTV+ (no longer available)|
|Balkans||Sportklub (no longer available)|
Talksport is an official broadcaster of Super League, broadcasting commentaries and magazine programming on Talksport 2. BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra covers more than 70 Super League games through 5 Live Rugby League each Thursday and Friday night. Each 3 hour programme is presented by Dave Woods with a guest summariser (usually a Super League player or coach) and in addition to live commentary also includes interviews and debate. A 5 Live Rugby League podcast is available to download each week from the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtxd/episodes/downloads.
Super League is also covered extensively by BBC Local Radio:
|BBC Radio Humberside||Hull|
|BBC Radio Leeds||West Yorkshire|
|BBC Radio Manchester||Salford, Wigan and Warrington.|
|BBC Radio Merseyside||St Helens, Warrington and Widnes.|
The competition is also covered on commercial radio stations:
All Super League commentaries on any station are available via the particular stations on-line streaming.
ESPN3, formerly ESPN360, has had worldwide broadband rights since 2007 when they broadcast the 2007 Grand Final.
Since 9 April 2009, all of the matches shown on Sky Sports have also been available live online via Livestation everywhere in the world excluding the US, Puerto Rico, UK, Ireland, France, Monaco, Australia and New Zealand. In 2016 Livestation shut down, however these matches are also available online for UK users only through Sky Go and Now TV.
In the United Kingdom, a number of commercial radio stations, along with BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the local BBC radio stations simulcast commentary of Super League games on the internet. Additionally, the 5 Live Rugby League podcast is available to download each week from the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrtxd/episodes/downloads.