Super League (Europe)
Learn more about Super League (Europe)
Super League (Europe) began in March 1996 and is the only full-time professional rugby league competition operating in the northern hemisphere. Most of the teams are based in Great Britain, though there has been French involvement with Paris Saint German at the birth of the Super League and French club Union Treiziste Catalane, known as Les Catalans Dragons, have joined for the 2006 season. As a result of sponsorship from engage Mutual Assurance the competition is currently officially known as the engage Rugby Super League.
During the league's regular season, each team plays 28 games over 28 rounds from February to September. At the end of the regular season, the top six teams in Super League play in the playoffs, which finishes with the Grand Final.
The competition was first mooted during the Super League war as a way for Rupert Murdoch to gain the upper hand during the battle for supremacy with the Australian Rugby League. Murdoch approached the British clubs to form Super League (Europe) (SLE). A large sum of money 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.
Initially, several mergers between existing clubs were proposed:
- Castleford, Wakefield and Featherstone Rovers would form Calder
- Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers would form Humberside
- Whitehaven RLFC, Workington Town, Barrow and Carlisle would form Cumbria
- Warrington and Widnes were to form Cheshire
- Salford, Oldham, Swinton and Rochdale were to form Manchester
- Sheffield and Doncaster were to form South Yorkshire
However this proved so unpopular that only existing clubs were selected for the competition. Several clubs currently in the existing top flight were excluded, whilst other from the lower divisions (such as London Broncos now known as Harlequins Rugby League) were “fast-tracked” in on commercial grounds. A new team, Paris Saint Germain, was created to give a French dimension.
After two years Paris were dropped from the competition, thus the 'Europe' in 'Super League (Europe)', became somewhat otiose; it was however retained. Promotion and relegation between Super League and the Rugby League National Leagues was re-introduced, and in 2002 the SLE governing body re-integrated fully into the Rugby Football League. To most intents and purposes, Super League is now simply a re-titled first division of British Rugby League. However, in 2006, French side Les Catalans (also known as UTC or Catalans Dragons) from Perpignan joined the league. In order to facilitate this move, two clubs were relegated from Super League at the end of the 2005 season, with only one club coming up from the National Leagues, thus the number of clubs in Super League remained at 12.
After 2009 there will be no automatic promotion or relegation from Super League and new teams will be admitted on a franchise basis. 3 yearly reviews of franchises will take place to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful. However some teams including newly crowned champions Saints, newly promoted Hull KR & Wakefield are not yet guarenteed entry due to ground requirements
Currently, 12 teams compete in Super League. They play each other twice on a home-and-away basis. An additional five fixtures are then played, including the Millennium Magic round (prior to 2007,an additional six fixtures were added). After the 27 rounds, a play-off structure is then used to determine the two teams who will meet in the Super League Grand Final to decide the championship. Currently the top six teams enter the play-offs. The structure is designed to reward the teams finishing nearer the top with easier routes to the Grand Final, which is played at Old Trafford. The system works like this:
- Elimination Semi-final A: 3rd vs 6th (Image:RhinosDesign.png Leeds 17-18 Warrington Image:WolvesDesign.png)
- Elimination Semi-final B: 4th vs 5th (Image:BullsDesign.png Bradford 52-6 Salford Image:RedsDesign.png)
- Elimination Final: Winners of Elimination Semi-final A vs Winners of Elimination Semi-final B (Image:WolvesDesign.png Warrington 24-40 Bradford Image:BullsDesign.png)
- Qualification Match: 1st vs 2nd (Image:Saintscolours.png St Helens 12-8 Hull FC Image:Hullcolours.png)
- Final Qualifier: Winners of Elimination Final vs Losers of Qualification Match (Image:Hullcolours.png Hull FC 19-12 Bradford Image:BullsDesign.png)
- Grand Final: Winners of Qualification Match vs Winners of Final Qualifier (Image:Saintscolours.png St Helens 26-4 Hull FC Image:Hullcolours.png)
In earlier seasons the championship was decided on the basis of the league table alone, with the play-offs leading to a separate Premiership Final. Now a minor prize is given to the team finishing top (the League Leader's Shield); the real prize is to win the Grand Final.
See Rugby League Championship for full list of championship winners (1895-date).
|Year||Grand Final winner||Runner up||League leader|
|1998||Wigan Warriors||Leeds Rhinos||Wigan Warriors|
|1999||St Helens||Bradford Bulls||Bradford Bulls|
|2000||St Helens||Wigan Warriors||Wigan Warriors|
|2001||Bradford Bulls||Wigan Warriors||Bradford Bulls|
|2002||St Helens||Bradford Bulls||St Helens|
|2003||Bradford Bulls||Wigan Warriors||Bradford Bulls|
|2004||Leeds Rhinos||Bradford Bulls||Leeds Rhinos|
|2005||Bradford Bulls||Leeds Rhinos||St Helens|
|2006||St Helens||Hull FC||St Helens|
 2006 Season
The competition kicked off the weekend after the World Club Challenge. This season saw the entry of Catalan Dragons, who are the first French team to compete since the demise of Paris Saint Germain at the end of Super League II.
Castleford Tigers were relegated from Super League on Saturday 16 September after finishing the regular season in 11th place (Catalans Dragons were exempt from relegation and finished 12th, therefore 11th placed-team was relegated).
In the Grand Final St. Helens beat Hull FC by 26-4 at Old Trafford. At half time the score stood at 10-4 for St. Helens. The Saints raced ahead in the second half with several tries. This victory, in addition to their Challenge Cup win and League Leader's Shield, meant that they had completed the league treble.
For full results, see Super League XI.
 2007 Season
The 2007 season will kick off on the weekend of February 2nd 2007 at the Galpharm Stadium. For the first time, the league will have a staggered start due to the World Club Challenge between St Helens RLFC and Brisbane Broncos. The first round of matches will begin on the weekend of February 9th-11th 2007. The 2007 season will also see the first Millennium Magic weekend in Cardiff.
 See also
- Super League XI (2006 Super League season)
- Super League XII (2007 Super League season)
- Challenge Cup
- World Club Challenge
- Rugby League National Leagues
- Sports league attendances
Super League - the first ten years, Phil Caplan and Jonathan R. Doidge, ISBN 0-7524-3698-8
 External links
|Rugby league in Britain and Ireland|
| ||Image:European flag.svg|