This article originally appeared in issue 398 of Rugby League World magazine. Issue 399 is currently in production and will be on sale from June 6. Click here to find out more about the magazine and to browse back issues click this link…
Rugby League World can reveal the latest plans for next season’s Championship One, which could see the introduction of a new cup competition.
The clubs were handed the proposals at a recent meeting between Championship clubs and the Rugby Football League.
Championship One will become a 14-team league, with Coventry Bears expected to confirm their inclusion in coming months.
Promotion and relegation will definitely be in place between that division and the second tier, with two clubs going up and down each season.
The clubs have been offered three options over the make-up of the season.
The first is a straight forward home and away league campaign in which every club plays 26 matches. Under that system, the team finishing first would be automatically promoted, and teams two to five would then play-off for the second promotion place.
The second option would see them play 22 league matches plus a 16-team knock-out cup, with the same promotion method being used.
Under the third choice, teams would play 20 league fixtures alongside a cup competition. As part of that proposal, promotion would decided in a different way, with first playing second and the winner of that game being promoted. The loser would then join the teams that finished third to fifth in a four-team play-off, with the winner also earning promotion.
It is understood that the clubs currently favour the second option.
The new cup would include 14 Championship One clubs, plus the National Conference League Grand Final winners, and the winners of the Conference Challenge Cup.
A straight knock-out competition, the draw would be geographically seeded for the first round but then become an open draw leading to a final, potentially at the ground of one of the two competing clubs, decided by a coin toss and with a shared gate.
The cup would not involve any clubs in the Championship, and would effectively replace the Northern Rail Cup, which has not been played this season.
Championship One officials that Rugby League World spoke to welcomed the focus on their competition after concerns that they were being overlooked when initial news of the game’s restructuring broke.
But the fact that there will be no additional funding for the third tier from 2015 onwards – unlike the Championship – could become an issue, particularly with additional fixtures potentially costing clubs money.
One leading Championship One official told Rugby League World: “The fact that there will be a great number of teams in the division is key, because we’ve had too many blank weekends.
“The season is always stopping and starting, and from a fans’ perspective as well as players and coaches, that can be so frustrating.
“This will help that, but it has to be qualified by saying that this division doesn’t get any more central funding next year.
“The fact that there will be more games has a very definite cost implication for clubs in this league.
“If you take the financial side out of it then you’d say yes, we want more games and probably to play a full home and away league season.
“It doesn’t look like that will happen and we are going to have a cup competition alongside probably 22 games.
“Whilst the cup is a chance to win silverware and all clubs want that, we need to know what the competition could potentially cost clubs as well
“They will be shared gates, and with no extra funding in this division it will be a balancing act.
“The Championship has had a massive step forward under the new structure with regards to the funding in it.
“But that hasn’t happened for Championship One, and with five additional clubs and all those extra games it’s almost like a double whammy for us.”
Rugby League World understands that there was little or no challenge to the proposals from any of the clubs currently in the Championship, and in danger of being one of five sides relegated this year, at the meeting.
The proposals are expected to be ratified in the next couple of months.