Rugby League Conference

Rugby League Conference
Rugby League Conference
Rugby League Conference competition logo
Sport Rugby league football
Formerly known as Southern Conference League
Instituted 1997
Replaced by 2012
Number of teams 115
Countries  England
Champions Huddersfield Underbank Rangers (2011)

The Rugby League Conference (RLC) (also known as the Co-operative Rugby League Conference as a result of sponsorship from The Co-operative Group), was a series of regionally based divisions of amateur rugby league teams spread throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

The RLC was founded as the 10-team Southern Conference League in 1997, with teams from the southern midlands and the south east, but has subsequently, rebranded and expanded both geographically and numerically to include around 90 teams stretched across almost the whole of Great Britain from Aberdeen in northern Scotland down to Plymouth on the south coast of England.

The aim of the RLC was initially to provide regular fixtures for new clubs based outside the 'heartland' of rugby league, although as the playing standards have raised it now also accepts teams from the 'heartlands'. The hope is that at least some of these clubs will eventually progress to become semi-professional clubs that could one day join the 'traditional' clubs in the national leagues; to date only London Skolars have done so.

With the top heartlands amateur league, the National Conference League voting to move to a summer season, the 2012 season will see a re-alignment of the amateur game and the Rugby League Conference replaced with a series of regional leagues.

The London League, Midlands Rugby League, Yorkshire & Humber Merit League, North West Merit League and Eastern Merit League act as feeder competitions to the Rugby League Conference.



The Southern Conference League was founded as a 10-team competition in 1997. The following season it was rebranded as the Rugby League Conference due to its intentions to include teams from all non-heartland parts of the country and its even then inclusion of several teams outside the South.

The league steadily expanded over the first few seasons right up to the fringes of the heartlands, before expanding into Wales for the first time in 2001 with the addition of Cardiff Demons. The league expanded into the North East that same season.

In 2003 National League Three was founded including some of the stronger Rugby League Conference clubs and some BARLA clubs. This same season saw massive expansion of the Rugby League Conference including an entire Welsh division. The league also pushed its borders further including more teams from the less rugby league playing areas of the counties considered the heartlands and went as far south west as Somerset.

The league expanded further in 2004 by allowing entry to heartland clubs. For the 2005 season the competition was split into two tiers, with Premier divisions being created for above the existing regional divisions. The next major changes were in 2007 when National League Three (as the National Division) and the Scottish League became integral parts of the Rugby League Conference structure.

The Rugby League Conference celebrated passing the 100 club barrier in 2010.[1]

Season and play-off format

There is no promotion or relegation between divisions, teams may apply to join higher divisions and may or may not be accepted based on different criteria.

In the event of a default, the game is awarded 24-0 to the non-defaulting side (or the average scoreline of win of the non-defaulting side in the event that this is greater) unless the non-defaulting side agrees to rearrange the match to a later date.

National Division

The ten teams play each other on a home and away basis providing eighteen games. The top six teams then enter the end of season play-offs in the same format as the play-offs for the Championships. The Conference National is seen as the immediate division below Championship 1, at least as regards to the summer leagues, although there is no promotion between the two leagues.

Premier divisions

There are six English divisions (though the two Yorkshire divisions have a combined playoffs and final), one Scottish division and one Welsh division with six to eight teams per division. Teams play various fixture formats to provide between ten and fourteen regular season games. Each division then has its own play-off series to determine the champion with the seven divisional final winners entering the national play-offs. All national play-offs are held at a neutral venue, but regional play-offs are played at the ground of the highest finishing club.

The premier divisions were added in the 2005 season to provide for clubs wanting to play a longer season and the development of those clubs within the Conference, although generally the season is a similar length to the Regional divisions. It was intended that there would be minimum criteria including junior teams to enter the Premier divisions. However, there are no fixed criteria in practice and the South West lacks a Premier Division (though Bristol Sonics run a team out of region in the Midlands). In the Midlands and Yorkshire there is no distinction between the premier and regional divisions until the playoffs

Regional divisions

There are eleven regional divisions (nine English, one Welsh and one Scottish; though three serve as both premier divisions and regional divisions) in 2011 with between five and eight teams per division and varying numbers of fixtures. Each division has play-offs with varying formats with the winners entering the play-offs for the national title (though the two Yorkshire divisions have combined playoffs and only enter one side into the national playoffs). All national play-offs are held at a neutral venue, but regional play-offs are played at the ground of the highest finishing club.

Representative fixtures

A selection is made for England Lionhearts who represent England in the Skanska Amateur Four Nations competition against national amateur sides from Wales, Scotland (players drawn from RLC teams) and Ireland (players from Rugby League Ireland).

2011 Structure

National Division
Bramley Buffaloes
Coventry Bears
Dewsbury Celtic
Featherstone Lions
Hemel Stags
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers
Kippax Knights
Nottingham Outlaws A
Valley Cougars
Warrington Wizards
North East Premier
Gateshead Spartans
Gateshead Storm
Jarrow Vikings
Peterlee Pumas
Sunderland City
Wallsend Eagles
North West Premier
Accrington & Leyland Warriors
Liverpool Buccaneers
Wigan Riversiders
Scottish Premier
Ayrshire Storm
Carluke Tigers
Easterhouse Panthers
Edinburgh Eagles
Fife Lions
Southern Premier
Eastern Rhinos
Hammersmith Hills Hoists
London Skolars A
St Albans Centurions
South London Storm
West London Sharks
Welsh Premier
Bridgend Blue Bulls
Cardiff Demons
Titans RLFC
Torfaen Tigers
Valley Cougars A
Midlands East
Leicester Storm
Northampton Demons
Nottingham Outlaws A
Midlands West
Birmingham Bulldogs
Bristol Sonics
Leamington Royals
Telford Raiders
Yorkshire Premier (East)
Barnsley Broncos
Cutsyke Raiders
Knottingley Stozle Rockware
Moorends-Thorne Marauders
Rotherham Giants
Scarborough Pirates
Walton Warriors
York Lokomotive
Yorkshire Premier (West)
Leeds Akkies
Lindley Swifts
Parkside Hawks
Prospect Pirates
Shaw Cross Sharks
Bedford Tigers
Bury Titans
St Ives Roosters
Sudbury Gladiators
London & South
Elmbridge Eagles
Greenwich Admirals
Guildford Giants
Medway Dragons
Portsmouth Navy Seahawks
Southampton Spitfires
Sussex Merlins
North East
Cramlington Rockets
Durham Demons
East Cumbria Crusaders
Hartlepool ARLFC
North Yorkshire Stallions
Peterlee Pumas A
Whitley Bay Barbarians
Winlaton Warriors
North West
Blackpool Sea Eagles
Cadishead Rhinos
Chester Gladiators
Chorley Panthers
Rochdale Cobras
Scottish 1st Division
Aberdeen Warriors
Moray Titans
South West
Devon Sharks
East Devon Eagles
Exeter Centurions
North Devon Raiders
Plymouth Titans
Somerset Vikings
South Dorset Giants
Welsh Championship
Bonymaen Broncos
Dyffryn Devils
Neath Port Talbot Steelers
Tydfil Wildcats Rugby League
West of England
Bristol Sonics 'A'
Gloucestershire Warriors
Oxford Cavaliers
Swindon St George
Wiltshire Wyverns
  • NB: The Midlands East & West divisions will be both Premier and Regional divisions as part way through the season they split into playoff pools for each division on a midlands-wide basis
  • NB: Gateshead Lightning failed to start the season in the National division. East Leeds and Guiseley Rangers failed to start the season in the Yorkshire Premier Division (West). Doncaster Toll Bar failed to complete the season in the Yorkshire Premier Division (West). Moray Eels failed to start the season in the Scottish Premier division. Falkirk failed to start the season in the Scottish 1st Division. Ayr Knights failed to complete the season in the Scottish 1st Division. South Somerset Warriors failed to complete the season in the South West Division. CPC Bears failed to complete the season in the Welsh Premier division and their results stood. Blackwood Bulldogs failed to start the season in the South Wales Championship. Hainault Bulldogs failed to complete the season in the South Premier division and had their fixtures taken over by London Skolars A. Birmingham Bulldogs A failed to complete the season in the Midlands East division and their playoff place was taken by Coventry Dragons. Mancunians, Widnes West Bank and East Lancashire Vikings failed to complete the season in the North West Premier Division. Crewe & Nantwich Steamers failed to complete the season in the North West Regional division. Norwich City Saxons and Northampton Demons A failed to complete the season in the East division and their results stood.

Future of the Rugby League Conference

In 2012 it is planned that the structure of rugby league in this country be significantly changed below Super League level. This will include the abolition of the Rugby League Conference and the replacement with a series of regional league underpinning the National Conference League, which is moving to summer, and the league currently known as the Rugby League Conference National Division which will be rebranded perhaps as National Conference League division three [2]

Women's Rugby League Conference

In 2011 the following teams will play in the Women's Rugby League Conference:

  • Central Division: Bradford Thunderbirds, Brighouse Ladies, Dudley Hill Diamonds, Keighley Cats, West Craven Warriors
  • North East Division: Featherstone Rovers, Hunslet Hawks, Peterlee Pumas, Leeds Akkies, Stanningley, Whinmoor
  • North West Division: Chorley Panthers, Leigh East, Leigh Minders Rangers, Mancunians RL, Wigan Ladies
  • South Division: Coventry Bears, Nottingham Outlaws, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, The Army, West London Sharks
  • West Division: Crossfields, Halton, Macclesfield, Warrington, Widnes Moorfield

Past winners

Rugby League Conference National

Harry Jepson Trophy

The Harry Jepson trophy was competed for by all the Conference sides up to 2004. From 2005, it has been competed for only by the RLC Premier divisions.

RLC Regional

The RLC Regional is open to English sides that are in the regional divisions rather than the Premier divisions. It was introduced in 2005.

See also


Beyond the Heartlands - The History of the Rugby League Conference Julian Harrison

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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