RFU Championship

RFU Championship
RFU Championship
Current season or competition:
2011–12 RFU Championship
Sport Rugby union
Instituted 2009
Number of teams 12
Country  England
Holders Worcester Warriors (2010–11)
Website rfu.com

The RFU Championship replaced National Division One as the the second tier in the English rugby union system in September 2009. Unlike National Division One, which is semi-professional, the RFU Championship is a fully professional league.



See also History of the English rugby union system

On the November 10th 2008 it was proposed by the Rugby Football Union that second tier of the English rugby union system should be fully professional 12-club Championship. The proposal was criticised by the National League One chairman Geoff Irvine, representing the clubs, who described it as "financial suicide". However, six League One clubs subsequently supported the proposal. The proposals required five clubs to be relegated to National Division Two, with only one club being promoted from that division and one club joining the league from the Premiership.[1] On 15 November 2008 the RFU Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new proposal, which will begin in 2009.[2] Under the proposal the RFU will pay £2.3 million a year to help fund the change, with future rises due through television rights.[1] For the 2009–10 season and beyond, the team which wins the Championship league will not be automatically promoted to the Premiership. There will be a play-off competition between the top eight clubs to decide who is promoted. In the event that the winner of the play-off competition does not meet the minimum standards criteria for entry to the Premiership, there will be no promotion or relegation between the Championship and Premiership for that season. There is the possibility that neither team in the play-off final meet the minimum standards criteria, in which case the game would be meaningless in terms of promotion or relegation. The RFU have clarified that they will not consider promoting lower-placed sides, even if they finished top of the league phase of the competition. The play-off format of the Championship has been heavily criticised by the media, players and fans alike.[3][4]

2009–10 season

The 2009/10 Championship season was the first in which the league was fully professional.


The winner of the Championship league was not automatically promoted to the Premiership. Instead, a play-off competition between the top eight clubs was held to determine the promoted club. The first, fourth, fifth and eighth placed clubs entered Playoff Group A; the second, third, sixth and seventh placed clubs entered Playoff Group B. Each side played the other sides in their division home-and-away. The two highest placed sides in each division went through to a single-leg semi-final, and the semi-final winners played a two-legged final. The two legs of the final were played at the two competing clubs' home grounds, rather than at Twickenham.

In the event that the winner of the play-off competition does not meet the minimum standards criteria for entry to the Premiership, there will be no promotion or relegation between the Championship and Premiership for that season. This did not apply in 2009–10, as the RFU announced before the second leg of the Championship final that both participants, Bristol and Exeter, met the criteria for promotion.

There was also a playoff between the four lowest placed clubs in the Championship to determine who was relegated to National League 1.

Criticism and changes for 2010–11

The formats of both the promotion and relegation play-offs were criticised after the season. In both phases, all teams began equal, regardless of their performance during the home-and-away season. Moseley, who had been in serious relegation danger after a poor start to the play-offs, were particularly angry about the format because they started the relegation phase equal to the other three teams involved—despite having won 10 matches on the season to Birmingham's none. It was also felt that starting all teams equal in the promotion phase gave teams little incentive to win the regular season because there was no reward for a high finish within the top eight.[5]

As a result, the following changes were made to the promotion and relegation phases:[5]

  • In the promotion phase:
    • The top two clubs at the end of the regular season will start the play-off on 3 points.
    • The third- and fourth-place clubs will start on 2.
    • The fifth- and sixth-place clubs will start on 1.
    • The remaining two clubs will start on 0.
  • In the relegation phase, clubs will carry over 1 point for each win in the regular season.

League results

League Information Start of Season End of Season
Season Name Teams Relegated to League Promoted to League Promoted from League Relegated from League
1996–97 Courage Championship Division One 12 None
1997–98 Allied Dunbar Premiership Two 12 None
1998–99 Allied Dunbar Premiership Two 14 Bristol Bristol
1999–00 Allied Dunbar Premership Two 14 West Hartlepool Rotherham
2000–01 National Division One 14 Bedford Blues Leeds Tykes
2001–02 National Division One 14 Rotherham Titans None
2002–03 National Division One 14 None Rotherham Titans
2003–04 National Division One 14 Bristol Shoguns Worcester Warriors Manchester
2004–05 National Division One 14 Rotherham Titans Bristol
2005–06 National Division One 14 Harlequins Harlequins None
2006–07 National Division One 16 Leeds Tykes Leeds Tykes
2007–08 National Division One 16 Northampton Saints Northampton Saints
2008–09 National Division One 16 Leeds Carnegie Leeds Carnegie
2009–10 RFU Championship 12 Bristol Birmingham and Solihull Exeter Chiefs Coventry
2010–11 RFU Championship 12 Worcester Warriors Esher Worcester Warriors Birmingham and Solihull

See also


  1. ^ a b "Championship plan gains support". BBC Sport (BBC). 2008-11-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/english/7720024.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  2. ^ Simon Mills (2008-11-15). "RFU Council approves major changes to shape of club game". Rugby Football Union. http://www.rfu.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/RFUHome.News_Detail/StoryID/21277. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  3. ^ Brian Dick (2010-02-28). "Moseley star Nathan Williams questions fairness of play-offs system". Sunday Mercury. http://www.sundaymercury.net/midlands-sport/midlands-rugby/moseley-rfc/2010/02/28/moseley-star-nathan-williams-questions-fairness-of-play-offs-system-66331-25928675/. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  4. ^ Brian Dick (2010-02-25). "Taxing times for clubs struggling in rugby's Championship". Birmingham Post. http://www.birminghampost.net/midlands-birmingham-sport/west-midlands-sports/rfu-news/2010/02/25/taxing-times-for-clubs-struggling-in-rugby-s-championship-65233-25916539/. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  5. ^ a b Taylor, John (2010-08-18). "What close season?". ESPNScrum. http://www.scrum.com/england/rugby/story/121519.html. Retrieved 2010-08-18. 

External links

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