Super League

The Super League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event Super League XXVI
Super League logo 2017.jpg
The Super League logo between 2017 & 2019
Sport Rugby league
Founded 1996; 25 years ago (1996)
No. of teams 12
Country  England
 France
Most recent
champion(s)
Saintscolours.svg St Helens
(8th title)
Most titles Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
(8 titles)
TV partner(s) Sky Sport
BBC
Level on pyramid 1
Relegation to Championship
Domestic cup(s) Challenge Cup
International cup(s) World Club Challenge
Official website Super League

The Super League (SL) sponsored as the Betfred Super League is the top-level of the British rugby league system. The league currently has twelve teams, eleven of which are from Northern England, reflecting the sport's geographic popularity within the UK. The final team is Catalans Dragons, 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 29 games between February and September: 11 home games, 11 away games, Magic Weekend and an additional 6 '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.

The Super League champions play the National Rugby League champions from Australasia in the World Club Challenge at the start of the season.

History

1996–2001: Establishment

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 Β£77 million offer[1] and an Β£87 million payment[2] 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.

2002–2008: Promotion and relegation

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.

2009–2014: 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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Successful applicants were licensed for three years of Super League competition and[5] three-yearly reviews of Super League membership took place to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful.[4]

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.[6]

First licensing period

In June 2008, the RFL confirmed that the Super League would be expanded from 12 teams to 14 in 2009,[7][8] and on 22 July 2008 the RFL confirmed the teams awarded licences.[9] 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.[10]

Second licensing period

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,[11] but despite this only Barrow, Halifax and Widnes decided to submit an application.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] Crusaders CEO Rod Findlay stated that the club's finances were not in a good enough condition to justify their place in Super League.[15] 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."[15] Wakefield had been favourites to lose their licence before Crusaders' withdrawal.[15]

2015–2018: 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.[16]

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:[17][18]

  • The top 8 Super League clubs continued to compete in the Super 8s. After playing each other once (either home or away), the top 4 clubs progressed to the semi-finals to determine who competed in the Grand Final to be crowned champions.
  • The remaining (bottom 4) Super League clubs and the top 4 Championship clubs competed in The Qualifiers. They played each other once (either home or away) to determine which four of the clubs would compete in Super League the following year.

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.

2019–onwards: Super League split from RFL

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.[19] 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 apease the Championship clubs.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22]

Structure

Super League regular season

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.[23]

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.

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;[24] 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.

Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos celebrating following their 2008 Grand Final victory

The Grand Final is the championship-deciding game and showpiece event of the Super League season. It is held annually at Old Trafford.

City Stadium Years
England Manchester Old Trafford 1998–2019
England Hull KCOM Stadium 2020
England Manchester Old Trafford 2021–

Largest attendance

Year City Stadium Attendance
2015 England Manchester Old Trafford 73,512

Other competitions

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.

Clubs

Current clubs

Super League clubs
Colours Club Established City/Town Stadium Capacity* Titles (Last)**
Castleford colours.svg
Castleford Tigersa 1926 Castleford, West Yorkshire Wheldon Road 11,775 0 (N/A)
Catalanscolours.svg
Catalans Dragons 2000 Perpignan, PyrΓ©nΓ©es-Orientales Gilbert Brutus Stadium 13,000 0 (N/A)
Giantscolours.svg
Huddersfield Giantsc 1864 Huddersfield, West Yorkshire Kirklees Stadium 24,500 7 (1962)
Hullcolours.svg
Hull F.C.c 1865 Hull, East Yorkshire KCOM Stadium 25,400 6 (1983)
HKRcolours.svg
Hull Kingston Rovers 1882 Hull, East Yorkshire Craven Park 12,225 5 (1985)
Rhinoscolours.svg
Leeds Rhinosabc 1870 Leeds, West Yorkshire Headingley Stadium 19,700 11 (2017)
Leigh colours.svg
Leigh Centurions 1878 Leigh, Greater Manchester Leigh Sports Village 12,000 2 (1982)
Redscolours.svg
Salford Red Devils 1873 Salford, Greater Manchester Salford City Stadium 12,000 6 (1976)
Saintscolours.svg
St Helensabc 1873 St Helens, Merseyside Totally Wicked Stadium 18,000 15 (2020)
Wcatscolours.svg
Wakefield Trinityc 1873 Wakefield, West Yorkshire Belle Vue 9,333 2 (1968)
Wolvescolours.svg
Warrington Wolvesab 1876 Warrington, Cheshire Halliwell Jones Stadium 15,200 3 (1955)
Wigancolours.svg
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

  • **includes First Division titles won prior to the inaugural Super League season in 1996, which are officially considered to be part of the Super League lineage
Current Champions

Former Super League clubs

Former Super League clubs
Colours Club Seasons in
Super League
First season in
Super League
Last season in
Super League
Last top
division title**
Broncoscolours.png
London Broncos 20 1996 2019 N/A
Bullscolours.svg
Bradford Bulls 19 1996 2014 2005
Widnes colours.svg
Widnes Vikings 11 2002 2018 1989
Faxcolours.svg
Halifax Panthers 8 1996 2003 1985–86
Sheffeagles colours.svg
Sheffield Eagles 4 1996 1999 N/A
Cruscolours.svg
Celtic Crusaders Β§[a] 3 2009 2011 N/A
Oldhamcolours.svg
Oldham 2 1996 1997 1956–57
France colours.svg
Paris Saint-Germain Β§ 2 1996 1997 N/A
Gthundercolours.svg
Gateshead Thunder Β§ 1 1999 1999 N/A
Workingtoncolours.svg
Workington Town 1 1996 1996 1950–51
New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg
Toronto Wolfpack 1 2020 2020 N/A

All Time Super League table

  • Correct up to end of 2020 season
  • Table only includes league results and does not include games in playoffs or The Qualifiers
Current Super League team
Β§ Club defunct
Pos. Club Seasons P W D L PD Pts
1 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 25 663 470 15 178 7,581 953
2 Wigancolours.svg Wigan 25 664 443 24 197 6,961 904
3 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds 25 648 406 17 225 4,815 829
4 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington 25 657 348 13 296 1,869 709
5 Hullcolours.svg Hull F.C. 23 621 305 21 295 135 629
6 Bullscolours.svg Bradford 19 509 308 17 184 3367 617
7 Castleford colours.svg Castleford 23 609 282 20 307 βˆ’1,123 584
8 Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield 22 584 251 14 319 -1,386 516
9 Wcatscolours.svg Wakefield 22 589 215 7 367 βˆ’3,824 433
10 Broncoscolours.png London 20 538 195 20 323 -3,718 410
11 Redscolours.svg Salford 22 566 191 8 367 βˆ’4,794 382
12 Catalanscolours.svg Catalans 15 390 176 11 203 -950 363
13 HKRcolours.svg Hull KR 13 320 133 10 177 -984 276
14 Widnes colours.svg Widnes 11 292 97 8 187 βˆ’2,483 202
15 Faxcolours.svg Halifax 8 209 76 4 129 βˆ’1262 154
16 Sheffeagles colours.svg Sheffield 4 97 37 3 57 βˆ’636 77
17 Gthundercolours.svg Gateshead Β§ 1 30 19 1 10 199 39
18 Cruscolours.svg Crusaders Β§ [a] 3 81 21 0 60 βˆ’1032 38
19 Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham 2 44 13 2 29 βˆ’378 28
20 France colours.svg Paris Β§ 2 44 9 1 34 βˆ’607 19
21 Leigh colours.svg Leigh 2 51 8 1 42 955 17
22 Workingtoncolours.svg Workington 1 22 2 1 19 βˆ’696 5
23 New Zealand Kiwis colours.svg Toronto 1 Withdrew after 7 rounds

Points deductions

Year Club Points Reason
2001 Wcatscolours.svg Wakefield Trinity 2 Salary Cap Breach
2003 Faxcolours.svg Halifax 2 Salary Cap Breach
Hullcolours.svg Hull F.C. 2 Salary Cap Breach
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 2 Salary Cap Breach
2006 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 2 Salary Cap Breach
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 2 Salary Cap Breach
2007 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 2 Salary Cap Breach
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 4 Salary Cap Breach
2011 Wcatscolours.svg Wakefield Trinity 4 Administration
Cruscolours.svg Crusaders 4 Administration
2012 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 6 Administration
2013 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 2 Fielding Extra Man
2014 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 6 Administration
2016 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 6 Salary Cap Breach

Academies

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.

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.[25]

  • 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 five dual registered players per matchday squad.

In 2017 the following teams will run in each of the Senior Academy divisions:[26] Super League Academy – U19s:

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.

Season Champions Score Runners-up League Leaders
I
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens N/A Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Saintscolours.svg St. Helens[b]
II
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls Broncoscolours.png London Broncos Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls[b]
III
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 10–4 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
IV
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 8–6 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
V
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 29–16 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
VI
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 37–6 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
VII
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 19–18 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
VIII
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 25–12 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
IX
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 16–8 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
X
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 15–6 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XI
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 26–4 Hullcolours.svg Hull Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XII
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 33–6 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XIII
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 24–16 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XIV
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 18–10 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
XV
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 22–10 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
XVI
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 32–16 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
XVII
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 26–18 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
XVIII
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 30–16 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
XIX
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 14–6 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XX
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 22–20 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
XXI
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 12–6 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
XXII
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 24–6 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers
XXIII
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 12–4 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XXIV
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 23–6 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
XXV
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 8–4 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
XXVI
–

Results

Club Wins Runners
up
Winning Years
1 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 8 5 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2019, 2020
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 8 2 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017
2 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 5 6 1998, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
3 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 4 3 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005
4 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves 0 4 N/A
5 Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 0 1 N/A
Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 0 1 N/A
Hullcolours.svg Hull 0 1 N/A
Broncoscolours.png London Broncos 0 1 N/A

The Double

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, four of which occasions have been during the Super League era.

Club Wins Winning years
1 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 7 1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93,
1993–94, 1994–95, 2013
2 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 3 1965–66, 1996, 2006
3 Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants 2 1912–13, 1914–15
4 Barrowcolours.svg Broughton Rangers 1 1901–02
5 Faxcolours.svg Halifax 1 1902–03
6 Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet F.C. Β§ 1 1907–08
7 Swintoncolours.svg Swinton Lions 1 1927–28
8 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves 1 1953–54
9 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 1 2003
10 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 1 2015

The Treble

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.

Club Wins Winning years
1
Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
3 1991–92, 1992–93, 1994–95
2
Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants
2 1912–13, 1914–15
3
Saintscolours.svg St. Helens
2 1965–66, 2006
4
Hunsletcolours.svg Hunslet F.C.
1 1907–08
5
Swintoncolours.svg Swinton Lions
1 1927–28
6
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls
1 2003
7
Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
1 2015

The Quadruple

The Quadruple refers to winning the Super League, League Leaders' Shield, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge in one season.

Club Wins Winning years
1 Wigancolours.svg Wigan 1 1994–95
2 Bullscolours.svg Bradford 1 2003–04
3 Saintscolours.svg St Helens 1 2006–07

Teams relegated

Awards

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.

Club Wins Winning years
1 Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 9 1996, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2018, 2019
2 Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 5 1998, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2020
3 Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 4 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003
4 Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 3 2004, 2009, 2015
5 Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves 2 2011, 2016
6 Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants 1 2013
7 Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 1 2017

Super League Trophy

The Super League Trophy

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 and Leeds with eight 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 two grand finals, defeating Salford in 2019 and Wigan again, in 2020.

Following their 2014, 2015 and 2020 defeats to St. Helens and Leeds, Wigan have now broken St Helens's record of losing five Grand Finals, losing a total of six. Hull FC (2006), Warrington (2012, 2013, 2016, and 2018), Castleford (2017), and Salford (2019) have all appeared in the Grand Final but never won.

Steve Prescott 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.

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.

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 2020 dream team is as follows:

Coaches

Nat. Name Club Appointed Time as head coach
England Daryl Powell Castleford colours.svg Castleford Tigers 7 May 2013 8 years, 10 days
England Steve McNamara Catalanscolours.svg Catalans Dragons 19 June 2017 3 years, 332 days
Wales Ian Watson Giantscolours.svg Huddersfield Giants 19 November 2020 179 days
Australia Brett Hodgson Hullcolours.svg Hull F.C. 25 November 2020 173 days
Australia Tony Smith HKRcolours.svg Hull Kingston Rovers 6 June 2019 1 year, 345 days
England Richard Agar Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos 7 May 2019 2 years, 10 days
Scotland John Duffy Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions 22 November 2018 2 years, 176 days
Ireland Richard Marshall Redscolours.svg Salford Red Devils 1 December 2020 167 days
Australia Kristian Woolf Saintscolours.svg St. Helens 13 October 2019 1 year, 216 days
England Chris Chester Wcatscolours.svg Wakefield Trinity 16 March 2016 5 years, 62 days
Australia Steve Price Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves 6 October 2017 3 years, 223 days
Papua New Guinea Adrian Lam Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors 14 October 2018 2 years, 215 days

Head coaches with Super League titles

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 England Brian McDermott 4 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017
2 England Brian Noble 3 2001, 2003, 2005
3 England Shaun Wane 3 2013, 2016, 2018
4 Australia Ian Millward 2 2000, 2002
5 Australia Tony Smith 2 2004, 2007
6 New Zealand Brian McClennan 2 2008, 2009
7 Australia Shaun McRae 1 1996
8 Australia Matthew Elliott 1 1997
9 Australia John Monie 1 1998
10 England Ellery Hanley 1 1999
11 Australia Daniel Anderson 1 2006
12 Australia Michael Maguire 1 2010
13 Australia Nathan Brown 1 2014
14 Australia Justin Holbrook 1 2019
15 Australia Kristian Woolf 1 2020

Coaches to have coached at least 200 Super League games

  • Bold indicates coach still at club
  • Italic indicates coach still active as a head coach in Rugby League but not in Super League at this time

Statistics correct as of 2 May 2021

Rank Player Club(s) Games
1 Australia Tony Smith Huddersfield (2001, 2003)
Leeds (2004–2007),
Warrington (2009–2017)
Hull KR (2019–present)
468
2 England Brian McDermott London (2007–2010)
Leeds (2011–2018)
Toronto (2020)
340
3 England Brian Noble Bradford (2001–2006)
Wigan (2006–2009)
Crusaders (2010)
Salford (2013–2014)
321
4 Australia Shaun McRae St. Helens (1996–1998)
Gateshead (1999)
Hull (2000–2004)
Salford (2007, 2009–2011)
312
5 England Daryl Powell Leeds (2001–2003)
Castleford (2013–2021)
Warrington (2022-)
300
6 England John Kear Sheffield (1997–1999),
Huddersfield (2000)
Hull (2005–2006)
Wakefield (2006–2011)
272
7 Australia Ian Millward St. Helens (2000–2005)
Wigan (2005–2006)
Castleford (2012–2013)
228
8 England Steve McNamara Bradford (2006–2010),
Catalans (2017–present)
209
9 England Shaun Wane Wigan (2012–2018) 208

Players

  • Statistics are correct as of 2 May 2021.

Players to have made over 350 Super League Appearances

Kevin Sinfield holds the record for the most appearances in Super League. Sinfield made 454 appearances for Leeds Rhinos
  • Note that appearances from the bench are also included in this list. Excluding appearances in Qualifiers
  • Bold indicates players still active in Super League
  • Italics indicates players still active but not in Super League
Rank Player Years Club(s) Appearances
1 England Kevin Sinfield 1997–2015 Leeds 454
2 England Andy Lynch 1999–2017 Castleford, Bradford, Hull FC, Castleford 452
3 England Paul Wellens 1998–2015 St. Helens 443
4 England Jamie Peacock 1998–2015 Bradford, Leeds 438
5= England Rob Burrow 2001–2017 Leeds 431
5= England Leon Pryce 1998–2016 Bradford, St. Helens, Hull FC, Catalans 431
7 England Ben Westwood 1999–2019 Wakefield, Warrington 430
8 England James Roby 2004–present St. Helens 425
9 England Danny Tickle 2000–2018 Halifax, Wigan, Hull FC, Widnes,
Castleford, Leigh, Hull KR
419
10 England Keith Senior 1996– 2011 Sheffield, Leeds 413
11 England Lee Gilmour 1997–2014 Wigan, Bradford, St. Helens, Huddersfield,
Castleford, Wakefield
412
12 England Danny McGuire 2001–2019 Leeds, Hull KR 408
13 England Sean O'Loughlin 2002–2020 Wigan 403
14 Wales Lee Briers 1997–2013 St. Helens, Warrington 402
15 England Jon Wilkin 2003–2018,
2020
St. Helens, Toronto 385
16 England Paul Deacon 1997–2011 Oldham, Bradford, Wigan 384
17 Wales Keiron Cunningham 1996–2010 St. Helens 382
18 England Danny Orr 1997–2012 Castleford, Wigan, Harlequins RL, Castleford 381
19= England Jamie Jones-Buchanan 1999–2019 Leeds 366
19= England Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 2006–present Harlequins R.L, St. Helens 366
21 England Jon Clarke 1997–2014 Wigan, London, Warrington, Widnes 360
22 England Stuart Fielden 1998–2013 Bradford, Wigan, Huddersfield 359
23 England Kevin Brown 2003–present Wigan, Huddersfield, Widnes,
Warrington, Salford
356
24 Scotland Richard Horne 1999–2014 Hull 353
25 England Mickey Higham 2001–2017 St. Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Leigh 352

Tries

Danny McGuire is the highest ever try scorer in Super League with 247
Rank Player Years Clubs Tries
1 England Danny McGuire 2001–2019 Leeds, Hull KR 247
2 England Ryan Hall 2007–2018
2021–present
Leeds, Hull KR 202
3= England Paul Wellens 1998–2015 St. Helens 199
3= England Keith Senior 1996–2011 Sheffield, Leeds 199
5 England Ryan Atkins 2005–2020 Bradford, Wakefield x2,
Warrington
186

Points

Rank Player Years Clubs Points
1 England Kevin Sinfield 1997–2015 Leeds 3,443
2 Scotland Danny Brough 2005–2006,
2008–2020
Hull FC, Castleford,
Wakefield x2, Huddersfield
2,462
3 England Paul Deacon 1997–2011 Oldham, Bradford, Wigan 2,415
4 England Andrew Farrell 1996–2004 Wigan 2,372
5 Ireland Pat Richards 2006–2013, 2016 Wigan, Catalans 2,280

Winning captains

Sean O'Loughlin captained the Wigan Warriors to four Super League Grand Final victories, the second most in Super League history

11 players have captained teams to win the Super League.

Captain Wins Winning years
1 England Kevin Sinfield 7 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015
2 England Sean O'Loughlin 4 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
3 England Chris Joynt 3 1999, 2000, 2002
4 New Zealand Robbie Paul 3 1997, 2001, 2003
5 England James Roby 2 2019, 2020
6 England Bobbie Goulding 1 1996
7 England Andy Farrell 1 1998
8 England Jamie Peacock 1 2005
9 England Sean Long 1 2006
10 England Paul Wellens 1 2014
11 England Danny McGuire 1 2017

Top Try Scorer by season

Top Points Scorer by season

Logo

logo used from 1996 to 2016

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.

Logo from 2017 to 2019

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.

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:

Period Sponsor Name
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
2017–2021 Betfred Betfred Super League

As well as title sponsorship, Super League has a number of official partners and suppliers.[31] For the 2017 season these include Kingstone Press Cider, Dacia, Foxy Bingo, Batchelors and Specsavers.

The official rugby ball supplier is Steeden.[32]

Competition rules

Overseas quota and Federation-trained players

An overseas quota restricting the maximum number of foreign players at each club has existed since the inception of the Super League in 1996.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

Salary cap

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 Β£1.8 million in order to increase parity within the league.[36]

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:[37]

  • The combined earnings of the top 25 players must not exceed Β£1.825 million.
  • Clubs will only be allowed to sign a new player if they have room under the cap.
  • Clubs are allowed to spend a maximum of Β£50,000 on players outside the top 25 earners who have made at least one first grade appearance for the club during the year.
  • Costs for players outside of the top 25 earners who do not make a first team appearance will be unregulated.
  • Any player who has played for the same club for at least 10 consecutive seasons will have half their salary excluded from the salary cap for his 11th and subsequent seasons. This is subject to a maximum of Β£50,000 for any one club.
  • Clubs are allowed one "Marquee Player" who can exceed a club's salary cap as long as they can afford the players wages.

In 2017, Super League clubs approved proposals to increase the salary cap over the next three seasons, eventually rising to Β£2.1 million by 2020. Clubs will also be allowed to sign a second marquee player.[38]

Squad announcement system

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.[37]

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.

Criticism

Big Four dominance

Key
  • Number denotes league position

  Grand Final Champions   Grand Final Runners-up

Results of the 'Big Four' during 1996–2009
Season Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors
1996 3 10 1 2
1997 1 5 3 4
1998 5 2 4 1
1999 1 3 2 4
2000 3 4 2 1
2001 1 5 4 2
2002 2 4 1 3
2003 1 2 4 3
2004 2 1 5 4
2005 3 2 1 7
2006 4 3 1 8
2007 3 2 1 6
2008 5 2 1 4
2009 9 1 2 6
Titles 4 4 5 1
Results of the 'Big Four' since 2010
Season Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos Saintscolours.svg St. Helens Wigancolours.svg Wigan Warriors Wolvescolours.svg Warrington Wolves
2010 4 2 1 3
2011 5 3 2 1
2012 5 3 1 2
2013 3 5 4 2
2014 6 1 2 5
2015 1 2 3 6
2016 9 4 3 2
2017 2 4 6 9
2018 10 1 2 4
2019 8 1 2 4
2020 5 2 1 3
Titles 4 3 4 0

Since its formation in 1996 only four teams have won the Super League (Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos, St. Helens and Wigan Warriors). Also, only eight teams have taken part in the Grand Final (Hull FC, Castleford, Warrington Wolves, and Salford Red Devils, being the other four). Seven 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.[39] 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.

Licensing

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.

M62 Corridor

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 are the only team currently playing in Super League who are outside this comparatively small area.

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 above-mentioned team 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, whilst 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.

Media coverage

Television

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.

Duration Broadcaster
1996–2021 Sky Sports

Detailed Sky coverage

  • Super League Thursday starts at 7:30 pm and consists of a preview of the weekends Super League fixtures before the first game of the weekend.
  • Super League Friday includes one game with coverage starting at 7:30 pm building up to the game.
  • Super League Saturday usually shows Catalans Dragons games kicking off at 5:00 pm with coverage starting from 4:55 pm. When the Super 8s begin other teams are shown with coverage starting at 2:30 pm for games kicking off at 5:00 pm.

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.[40] 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.

Highlights programme Duration Broadcaster
Super League Show 1999–Present BBC

Internationally, Super League is shown live by eight broadcasters in eight countries and regions.

Country/ Region Broadcaster
Middle East OSN (no longer available)
North Africa
 France beIN Sports[41]
Sport en France[42]
 New Zealand Sky Sport
Māori Television
 United States Fox Soccer Plus
 Canada Sportsnet World
 Brazil BandSports (no longer available)
 Russia NTV+ (no longer available)
Balkans Sportklub (no longer available)
 Australia Fox League

Radio

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.[43] 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:

Station Area
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:

  • Radio Yorkshire cover two matches per round featuring Yorkshire clubs.
  • BCB 106.6 (Bradford Community Broadcasting) have full match commentary on Bradford home and away.
  • Wish FM have full match commentary on Wigan and St Helens matches home and away.
  • Wire FM have full match commentary of Warrington matches home and away.
  • Grand Sud FM covers every Catalans Dragons Home Match (in French).
  • Radio France Bleu Roussillon covers every Catalans Dragons Away Match (in French).

All Super League commentaries on any station are available via the particular stations on-line streaming.

Internet

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.[44] 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.

See also

Copyright