A new name, a new structure, a new knockout tournament and the same trailblazing reputation for expanded horizons will be common themes for Kingstone Press League 1 when Rugby League’s most geographically diverse competition kicks off on the weekend of February 28, 2015.
The 14 League 1 clubs, including newcomers Coventry Bears, will battle it out for two promotion places to the Kingstone Press Championship next summer, as well as competing in a new League Cup competition alongside two teams from the National Conference League.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “League 1 has firmly established itself as an exciting competition that pushes the sport’s boundaries, and that will continue in 2015 when all 14 clubs have a key role to play in the new league structure.
“With two promotion places up for grabs and the chance to make history by becoming the first winners of the new League 1 Cup, every minute of every match will matter from the first weekend to the last.”
The League 1 Cup and Challenge Cup action take centre stage throughout March before League 1 itself kicks off over the weekend of April 3-6, when Coventry Bears will start their own exciting new era as a semi-professional club with a home fixture against Oxford.
Last year’s runners up, Oldham, who narrowly missed out on promotion after losing to an extra-time golden point against Hunslet Hawks, start their 2015 campaign with a local derby against Rochdale Hornets.
The 14 League 1 clubs will each play 22 league games: home and away fixtures against nine clubs on a geographical basis and the remaining four clubs either home or away.
The opening weekend also sees newly-relegated Keighley Cougars welcome York City Knights to Cougar Park and Barrow Raiders travel to Gateshead Thunder. London Skolars start with a home fixture against Hemel Stags and both Welsh teams have away fixtures with North Wales Crusaders visiting Swinton Lions and South Wales Scorpions making the trip to University of Gloucestershire All Golds.
The Kingstone Press League 1 clubs enter the Challenge Cup over the weekend of March 7-8, a competition that concludes with the final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 29.
The League 1 Cup, which features all 14 League 1 clubs plus 2014 Conference Challenge Trophy winners West Hull and another National Conference League team who are yet to be confirmed, climaxes with the final at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool on Saturday May 23 as part of the Summer Bash, a weekend where each Championship club will play a fixture at the same ground.
At the end of the regular season, the top two teams will play each other for a place in the Championship with the winners being promoted as champions.
The losing side will then enter the play-offs against teams in third, fourth and fifth places as follows – promotion play-off losers v fifth-placed team, third-placed team v fourth-placed team.
The winners of the play-offs will advance to the League 1 Play-Off Final for the second spot in the Championship for 2016 as part of the Kingstone Press Finals Day (venue tbc) which will also feature the Conference Challenge Trophy Final and Championship Shield Final.
Full details of the new league structure, including an easy-to-understand video, can be found by visiting www.extraordinaryrugby.com
2015 KEY DATES – KINGSTONE PRESS LEAGUE 1
Weekend of 28-March 1 – League 1 Cup Round One (including all 14 League 1 teams plus West Hull and one other National Conference League club)
Weekend of 7-8 – Challenge Cup 3rd round (League 1 clubs enter)
Weekend of 3-6 – League 1 Round One
Weekend of 11-12 – Challenge Cup 5th round
Weekend of 16-17 – Challenge Cup 6th round
Weekend of 23-24 – League 1 Cup Final (to be held at Summer Bash, Blackpool)
Weekend of 27-28 – Challenge Cup quarter-finals
Weekend of 1-2 – Challenge Cup semi-finals
Saturday 29th – Challenge Cup final at Wembley
Weekend of 19-20 – League 1 1st v 2nd Play-Off
Weekend of 26-27 – League 1 semi-finals
Weekend of 3-4 – League 1 Play-Off Final
Round Date Home Away KO Time
1 03/04/2015 Coventry Bears Oxford 3pm
1 03/04/2015 Rochdale Hornets Oldham 3pm
2 12/04/2015 Oldham Coventry Bears 3pm
2 12/04/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Rochdale Hornets 3pm
3 19/04/2015 Coventry Bears Hemel Stags 3pm
3 19/04/2015 London Skolars Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm
4 26/04/2015 Oldham London Skolars 3pm
4 26/04/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Swinton Lions 3pm
4 26/04/2015 York City Knights Coventry Bears 3pm
5 03/05/2015 Coventry Bears Rochdale Hornets 3pm
5 03/05/2015 Oldham Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm
6 09/05/2015 Barrow Raiders Oldham 6.30pm
6 10/05/2015 Keighley Cougars Coventry Bears 3pm
6 10/05/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds York City Knights 3pm
7 17/05/2015 Oldham Gateshead Thunder 3pm
7 17/05/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Coventry Bears 3pm
8 31/05/2015 Coventry Bears Barrow Raiders 3pm
8 31/05/2015 Keighley Cougars Oldham 3pm
8 31/05/2015 Oxford Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm
9 07/06/2015 London Skolars Coventry Bears 3pm
9 07/06/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Hemel Stags 3pm
10 14/06/2015 Coventry Bears Swinton Lions 3pm
10 14/06/2015 Gateshead Thunder Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm
10 14/06/2015 Oldham Oxford 3pm
11 20/06/2015 Barrow Raiders Univ Gloucs All Golds 6.30pm
11 21/06/2015 Swinton Lions Oldham 3pm
12 28/06/2015 Oxford Coventry Bears 3pm
12 28/06/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Oldham 3pm
13 05/07/2015 Oldham York City Knights 3pm
14 12/07/2015 Coventry Bears Keighley Cougars 3pm
14 12/07/2015 Oldham Rochdale Hornets 3pm
14 12/07/2015 York City Knights Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm
15 19/07/2015 London Skolars Oldham 3pm
15 19/07/2015 Rochdale Hornets Coventry Bears 3pm
15 19/07/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Oxford 3pm
16 26/07/2015 Hemel Stags Coventry Bears 2.30pm
16 26/07/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds London Skolars 3pm
17 02/08/2015 Coventry Bears York City Knights 3pm
17 02/08/2015 Oldham Keighley Cougars 3pm
18 08/08/2015 Barrow Raiders Coventry Bears 6.30pm
18 09/08/2015 Hemel Stags Oldham 2.30pm
18 09/08/2015 Univ Gloucs All Golds Gateshead Thunder 3pm
19 16/08/2015 Gateshead Thunder Oldham 3pm
19 16/08/2015 Hemel Stags Univ Gloucs All Golds 2.30pm
20 23/08/2015 Gateshead Thunder Coventry Bears 3pm
20 23/08/2015 Oldham Barrow Raiders 3pm
20 23/08/2015 Swinton Lions Univ Gloucs All Golds 3pm