The Rugby Football League is working on plans for a Women’s Super League.
A formal launch will be held in the summer to bring together elite teams from the women’s game into a professionally-run competition run alongside the men’s Betfred Super League.
Teams which now operate as community clubs will be aligned to men’s Super League outfits, although the players will remain amateur.
The move has the backing of Sport England, which this week announced a grant of £10.75m over the next four years to the RFL to aid attempts to attract more women, as well as black, Asian and minority ethnic players into the game after it was revealed that 93 percent of the current total of 95,000 are male.
The project is being led by Sarah-Jane Gray, who took up the role of director of development and public affairs with the RFL in November.
“The women’s game has been growing but only by modest amounts and we wanted to see a big lever to kick it on,” she said.
“We were already committed to this and it was one of the pillars of the RFL’s submission to Sport England, who are very supportive of it.”
It’s expected that six to eight teams will compete at a formal level in 2018, building up to a 12-team Super League by 2021.
Clubs will be expected to come under the umbrella of their local professional clubs’ brands and Gray says Leeds Rhinos are among the Super League clubs to have pledged their support for 2018.