The Women’s Super League will expand to 12 teams for next season under a new format.
Barrow Raiders and Leigh Miners Rangers, who finished first and second in this season’s Women’s Championship, will make the step up.
It represents further growth to the competition, which started with just four teams back in 2017.
The 12-teams in 2022 will be split in to two groups of six, with one-up, one-down promotion and relegation at the end of the season.
Barrow and Leigh will join Bradford, Featherstone, Wakefield and Warrington in Group 2.
Champions and treble-winners St Helens head up Group 1, alongside Castleford, Leeds, Wigan, York and Huddersfield, who were Women’s Super League Shield winners last month.
In addition, applications are being invited for a possible expansion of the Betfred Women’s Super League South – which kicked off in 2021 with six teams – and further expansion in the Midlands and North also in the pipeline for 2022.
The continued growth reflects the vision of a full national pyramid by 2024, which was the long-term vision outlined in 2016 ahead of the launch of the BWSL.
World Cup ambitions
Thomas Brindle, the BWSL General Manager, said: “The Betfred Women’s Super League, like Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League more generally, continues to be a good-news expansion story for the sport.
“Managing that growth provides challenges, and we have to be prepared to be flexible on occasions – as we were in recognising the issues relating to Covid-19 that contributed to a number of postponements in the 2021 season, leading to the decision to split the BWSL into two groups of five.
“Consultation with the clubs has confirmed a substantial majority in favour of building on that success, by maintaining BWSL as one competition split into two groups.
“We feel that will be the best way of maintaining intensity for leading players, which is especially important in a World Cup year, while also allowing clubs in the second group develop at a more competitive level.
“The continued ambition of clubs in Group 2 will also be recognised by the introduction of one up, one down promotion and relegation between the Groups for 2023.
“Whilst the make-up of both groups is based on on-field performance there is an obligation that all clubs comply with all the relevant standards which are crucial in ensuring we continue to drive the competition forwards both on and off the pitch.”
The fixture list for the 2022 BWSL, and details of Grand Finals Day, will be published in the coming months; in addition to arrangements for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup for 2022, and with consideration being given to the possibility of a Nines tournament.