Seismic shift for 2013 Championships
Rugby League fans will witness the most exciting Championships season ever in 2013 with a trio of new clubs preparing to make their professional debuts in a revamped Championship One competition alongside an expanded and ultra-competitive 14-team Championship.
A restructured Northern Rail Cup competition adds to the excitement of a season that kicks-off on Thursday January 31st when 2012 Northern Rail Cup holders Halifax host defending Championship winners Sheffield Eagles in the opening league contest live on Premier Sports.
This is the first of over 30 live games which Premier Sports will broadcast throughout the course of the year.
The new-look 14-team Championship will deliver 26 rounds of regular season action before climaxing with the Grand Final which will once again be played as part of the Championships Finals Day in front of the Premier Sports cameras in September.
Next season sees three new clubs join the ranks of Championship One to compete in the most geographically diverse competition ever, giving Rugby League fans regular intriguing battles between old and new throughout the year.
The Championship One season will begin on Friday March 29th, when University of Gloucestershire All Golds will play their first ever professional league fixture against fellow debutants Oxford Rugby League while Hemel Stags, who complete the triumvirate of new-comers to Championship One, begin their campaign away to London Skolars.
All three clubs were welcomed into the Championships by existing members during a meeting held in Huddersfield last week (Wednesday November 21) which looked ahead to the 2013 season with the clubs forming a working group to look at enhancing the league’s major events.
The team which finishes top of Championship One at the end of the regular season will secure automatic promotion as champions: the second promotion place will be taken by the winners of a five-team play-off featuring the clubs which finished second to sixth.
Prior to the league season commencing, the Championship One clubs, minus Oxford, will be involved in the group stages of a re-structured Northern Rail Cup competition which begins on the weekend of March 2nd and 3rd.
The eight Championship One clubs involved will compete in two groups of four with the top team in each group then progressing to join all 14 Championship clubs in the knock-out rounds when the competition intensifies in May, with the chance to secure the first silverware of the season on the weekend of July 20th and 21st looming large on the horizon.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “There is a real sense of anticipation surrounding the 2013 campaign and the introductions of Hemel, Gloucester and Oxford to the professional ranks has generated real interest in the Championship One competition.
“These clubs all offer the sport a unique opportunity to take games into areas where we haven’t been before and the potential to attract new fans, players and volunteers is something that we are all very excited about.
“With new clubs, new players and three new-look competitions, I believe this is going to be the most exciting and important Championships season ever.
“The enthusiasm with which all three clubs have embraced their introduction to the professional ranks has been a real boost to the Championships and with those clubs joining North Wales Crusaders, South Wales Scorpions, London Skolars, Gateshead Thunder, Rochdale and Oldham, Championship One is certainly pushing the game’s geographical boundaries.
“With the Championship also embracing changes and expanding to become a 14-team competition it promises to be one of the most competitive leagues we have ever seen with all 14 clubs capable of beating one another and I feel certain that we will be treated to captivating action throughout the season across both divisions.
“The Northern Rail Cup also promises to deliver an intriguing competition right from the off with the Championship One clubs battling it out to earn a spot in the knock-out stages and with Premier Sports back on board for the 2013 campaign, I feel confident that we will be treated to some top-class action throughout the months ahead.”
Click here to download the Championship Fixtures
Click here to download the Championship One Fixtures
Click here to download the Northern Rail Cup Fixtures