Championship and League 1 restructure plans explained ahead of overhaul and Super 8s return

Aaron Bower
IMG logo, RFL Championship match ball

Rugby league outside of Super League is to undergo yet another radical overhaul, with the Super 8s system returning to determine promotion and relegation between the Championship and League 1 – with both teams set to become 12-team competitions.

The process of how that will happen will take place over a number of seasons: beginning this year. Just days out from the start of the new season, the goalposts in the Championship move significantly for those at the bottom with the side finishing 12th – third-bottom – now no longer guaranteed to be safe from relegation.

They will play the winners of the League 1 play-offs to reduce the Championship to 13 teams, and increase League 1 to ten teams in 2025. By 2026, both Championship and League 1 will have 12 teams apiece, after plans were approved at a meeting on Wednesday. Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of how it will work.

2024: this season

The top end of the Championship will remain largely unchanged each and every year. There is still no automatic access to Super League for the Grand Final winners under IMG’s plans, but there are promises for an increase in prize money for the Grand Final winners. That match takes place on the weekend of October 19-20.

It is what happens below that which becomes interesting. The Championship will be cut in size by one team at the end of this year, meaning that the bottom two go down as planned – and a one-off game between the winners of the League 1 play-offs and the team in 12th in the Championship decides the 13th and final spot in the competition in 2025.

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That is because, as is the case now, the League 1 champions go up automatically. So dependent on the result of that shoot-out match, it will either be three Championship teams relegated and two League 1 clubs promoted, or one League 1 club promoted and two Championship teams relegated.

Either way, the end result is the same: a 13-team Championship and a 10-team League 1.


But that’s not all. Throughout this year, the RFL are to accept applications for an 11th club to join League 1 in 2025, with a decision to be made by this September. That means the Championship will be 13 teams and League 1 will be 11, and once again, there will be an imbalance in the amount of teams flowing through the competitions to get us to two 12s in 2026.

Promotion and relegation between the Championship and League One will be determined by a Super 8s style competition involving the top teams in League One, and the lowest-ranked teams in the Championship. It is still being finalised in terms of plans, but it appears likely the final outcome will result in a 12-team Championship and 12-team League 1.


From there, things become – slightly – simplified. The Super 8s remains in place to determine promotion and relegation, but no matter who finishes where in that competition, the end result will be 12 teams in the Championship and 12 teams in League 1. 

What have the RFL said?

Chief executive Tony Sutton commented: “With so much to anticipate in the 2024 Championship and League One seasons, it was important to provide clarity to all competing clubs about the structure of their competitions going forward.

“The RFL began this process last September, and following significant feedback and consultation with clubs, a final proposal has been presented.

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“A reorganisation to produce two divisions of 12 clubs beneath the Super League will provide greater consistency and clarity across all three competitions, and also increase the intensity and quality of the Championship.

“However there was a recognition that it would be unfair to reduce the Championship from 14 clubs to 12 clubs in a single season – so we have allowed a more gradual transition over two seasons, meaning a 13-team Championship in 2025.

“We also recognised the need to preserve promotion and relegation between Championship and League One, and the clubs have been enthused by a Super 8s type system which will provide more attractive and meaningful fixtures for successful League One clubs by providing a significant number of fixtures between Championship and the top League One clubs.

“There will be a significant increase in prize money for the Championship Grand Final winners from 2024, recognising that the winners of this match will no longer secure automatic promotion to the Super League – the Championship should be seen as a significant competition to win in its own right.”

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