The RFL’s Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer has heralded a bold “new landscape” for Rugby League following the conclusion of the strategic review into the Co-operative Championships that will see a new structure for the semi-professional game in 2013.
The comprehensive review of the competitions below Super League included extensive consultation with clubs, sponsors, coaches, players and supporters and has led to clear principles being agreed to strengthen the Championships alongside a blueprint for geographical expansion.
Rimmer said: “The Championships review has proved a very successful and constructive exercise and I’m pleased with how positive the talks have been with the clubs.
“One of the main motivations behind conducting the review was the need for sustainability at this level and it is vital that the changes made strengthen both the competitions and existing clubs.
“Promotion and relegation between the two competitions will return at the end of 2013 and we will also revisit the possibility of promotion and relegation between the Championships and tier 3.
“Four new clubs will enter Championship One in 2013 and these will be announced in the next few months once the due diligence checks are completed, thus giving them an appropriate amount of time to prepare for life in Championship One in 2013.
“We have the opportunity to change the Rugby League landscape, this is of huge importance to the game and we’re looking at unearthing new players, new spectators and new viewers.
“However, it’s not about taking community teams and throwing them in, it’s smarter than that. The four new clubs in Championship One will, along with the other teams in the Championships, benefit from an increased level of central support and guidance as we focus on the sustainability of clubs at this level.”
Earlier this year, the RFL invited expressions of interest to enter the Championships from 2013 which resulted in a huge amount of interest from clubs across the UK and beyond many of whom attended a seminar for interested clubs in Coventry.
Following the Championship review new minimum standards for the Co-operative Championships will be introduced by the RFL and there is the principle of two different divisions playing under different terms and conditions. One of the primary aims of Championship One will be to assist the geographical expansion of the sport
Headline minimum criteria for stadia in the Championship include 500 seats, 3,000 capacity, 300 Lux floodlights and the club having a three-year security of tenure on the ground. Championship One has lower benchmarks including the requirement for 200 seats.
The RFL is also in negotiations with the French Federation regarding a European Cup competition which will see the top teams in the Championship playing against the top French sides in an annual tournament beginning in May 2011.