RFL take national view in restructure of women’s leagues from 2024

THE RFL has confirmed a major restructure of the women’s game from the 2024 season onwards.

At present, two six-team divisions make up the Women’s Super League, with a separate seven-team Women’s Super League South, and entry to each is only by invitation. Leagues beneath, such as the Women’s Championship, are separate from the top tiers.

From 2024, there will be a national, eight-team Women’s Super League competition, at the top of an integrated, three-tier structure that also includes regional competitions and then local competitions.

The Women’s Super League next year will include the six teams in Group 1 for 2023 – Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors and York Valkyrie, with no relegation this year – plus two teams from Group 2, whose sides will battle for one automatic promotion spot plus another via play-offs.

Underneath the top tier from 2024 will be four regional divisions, for the ‘North’ (covering West Cumbria, the North East and Scotland), ‘Roses’ (South Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire), ‘Midlands’ and ‘South’ (including Wales).

A national champion will be crowned at this level each year by play-offs between the regional winners, with the champion then playing the bottom side in the Women’s Super League for a place in the top tier, subject to new, to-be-announced criteria for top-division clubs.

Other leagues at community level will be in the third tier of the new structure, underneath this regional tier.

“National expansion has been part of our strategy for Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League since the introduction of the Women’s Super League in 2017,” said Thomas Brindle, the RFL’s Head of Growth and General Manager of the Women’s Super League.

“We have already seen the benefits in the two seasons of the Women’s Super League South, in terms of talented athletes from different parts of the country who can enhance the England programmes, and also in the development of Wales as international rivals to England. 

“Now, on the back of the Rugby League World Cup last autumn, which drove unprecedented media coverage and awareness for Women’s Rugby League, we are excited by the introduction of a national pyramid for 2024, providing a possible route to elite competition for players and clubs from all parts of the country.”

Brindle added that the new structure for the adult game will also stand alongside junior programmes as the sport looks to capitalise on the interest in the game by growing participation.

“All of the regional leagues will be underpinned by girls’ future hubs at under-14s and under-16s level, and a separate programme aimed at girls aged 7-11,” he added.