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The Rugby League Conference (RLC) (also known as the Co-operative Rugby League Conference as a result of sponsorship from the Co-operative Group), is a series of regionally based divisions of amateur rugby league teams spread throughout Englandmarker, Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker. There will be 12 divisions in 2009 (1 National, 5 Premier (North East, North West, Midlands, South and Wales)) and 6 Regional (Scotland, North East, North Midlands, East, South West and London & South East).

The RLC was founded as the 10-team Southern Conference League in 1997, with teams from the southern midlands and the south east, but has subsequently, rebranded and expanded both geographically and numerically to include around 90 teams stretched across almost the whole of Great Britain from Tillicoultrymarker in northern Scotland down to Plymouthmarker on the south coast of England.

The aim of the RLC was initially to provide regular fixtures for new clubs based outside the 'heartland' of rugby league, although as the playing standards have raised it now also accepts teams from the 'heartlands'. The hope is that at least some of these clubs will eventually progress to become semi-professional clubs that could one day join the 'traditional' clubs in the national leagues; to date only London Skolars have done so.

Confusingly, the top league administered by BARLA is also titled conference: the National Conference League. Although many of the clubs are affiliated to BARLA, the RLC is run, not by them, but by the Rugby Football League.

The London League, Midlands Rugby League and RL Merit League act as feeder competitions to the Rugby League Conference.


The Southern Conference League was founded as a 10-team competition in 1997. The following season it was rebranded as the Rugby League Conference due to its intentions to include teams from all non-heartland parts of the country and its even then inclusion of several teams outside the South. The league steadily expanded over the first few seasons right up to the fringes of the heartlands, before expanding into Wales for the first time in 2001 with the addition of Cardiff Demons. The league expanded into the North East that same season.

In 2003 National League Three was founded including some of the stronger Rugby League Conference clubs and some BARLA clubs. This same season saw massive expansion of the Rugby League Conference including an entire Welsh division. The league also pushed its borders further including more teams from the less rugby league playing areas of the counties considered the heartlands and went as far south west as Somerset. The league expanded further in 2004 by allowing entry to heartland clubs. For the 2005 season the competition was split into two tiers, with Premier divisions being created for above the existing regional divisions. The next major changes were in 2007 when National League Three (as the National Division) and the Scottish League became integral parts of the Rugby League Conference structure.

Season and play-off format

There is no promotion or relegation between divisions, teams may apply to join higher divisions and may or may not be accepted based on different criteria.

In the event of a default, the game is awarded 24-0 to the non-defaulting side (or the average scoreline of win of the non-defaulting side in the event that this is greater) unless the non-defaulting side agrees to rearrange the match to a later date.

National Division

The eleven teams play each other on a home and away basis providing twenty games. The top six teams then enter the end of season play-offs in the same format as the play-offs for the Super League and Championships. The Conference National is seen as the immediate division below Championship 1, at least as regards to the summer leagues, although there is no promotion between the two leagues.

Premier divisions

There are four English divisions and one Welsh division with seven to nine teams per division. Teams play each other on a home-and-away basis in three of the English divisions (only fourteen games in the Southern premier despite their being 9 teams) and play each other once in the Welsh division. Each division then has its own play-off series to determine the champion with the five divisional winners entering the national play-offs. The North West and Yorkshire division champions play a quarter-final with the winner joining the other 3 divisional winners in an open draw in the semifinals. All national play-offs are held at a neutral venue, but regional play-offs are played at the ground of the highest finishing club.

The premier divisions were added in the 2005 season to provide for clubs wanting to play a longer season and the development of those clubs within the Conference, although generally the season is a similar length to the Regional divisions. It was intended that there would be minimum criteria including junior teams to enter the Premier divisions. However, there are no fixed criteria in practice and often all teams from a region play in the premier division regardless of standards due to the lack of a geographically suitable regional division (e.g. in 2009 these regions being Walesmarker, the West Midlands and the North West of England).

Regional divisions

There are six regional divisions (five English and one Scottish) in 2009 with six to eight teams and ten to fourteen fixtures per team in the English divisions with varying fixture formats and seven games in a single round robin in Scotland. Each division has play-offs with varying formats with the winners entering the quarter-finals or semi-finals of the play-offs for the national title. In 2009 the quarterfinals will feature the North Midlands division winner playing the Eastern division winner and the South West division winner playing the London & South division winner, with the other two winners joining the 2 quarter-final winners in an open draw for the semi-finals. All national play-offs are held at a neutral venue, but regional play-offs are played at the ground of the highest finishing club.

Representative fixtures

After the end of the RLC season a series of games between the different English regions (as defined by Sport England) are held. These regional teams draw upon players from the clubs in their region. After this a selection is made for the North versus South origin game as well as England Lionhearts who represent England in a competition against national amateur sides from Wales, Scotland (players drawn from RLC teams) and Ireland (players from their own national amateur championship).

2009 Structure

National Division
Bramley Buffaloes
Carlisle Centurions
Dewsbury Celtic
East Lancashire Lions
Featherstone Lions
Gateshead Storm
Hemel Stags
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers
Liverpool Buccaneers
Nottingham Outlaws
Warrington Wizards
North West Premier
Blackpool Sea Eagles
Lymm RL
New Broughton Rangers
Rhyl Coasters
Runcorn RLC
Widnes Saints
Wigan Riversiders
Yorkshire Premier
Cottingham Phoenix
East Riding Rangers
Kippax Knights
Leeds Akkies
Moorends-Thorne Marauders
Scarborough Pirates
York Lokomotive
Midlands Premier
Birmingham Bulldogs
Bristol Sonics
Coventry Bearsmarker
Derby City
Gloucestershire Warriors
Leicester Phoenix
Southern Premier
Bedford Tigers
Elmbridge Eagles
Hainault Bulldogs
Ipswich Rhinos
London Skolars A
Portsmouth Navy Seahawks
St Albans Centurions
South London Storm
West London Sharks
Welsh Premier
Blackwood Bulldogs
Bridgend Blue Bulls
Cardiff Demons
Dinefwr Sharks
Neath Port Talbot Steelers
Newport Titans
Torfaen Tigers
Valley Cougars
West Wales Wild Boars
Carluke Tigers
Easterhouse Panthers
Edinburgh Eagles
Fife Lions
Hillfoot Rams
Jordanhill Phoenix
Moray Eels
Victoria Knights
North East
Jarrow Vikings
Newcastle Knights
Northallerton Stallions
Peterlee Pumas
Sunderland City
Whitley Bay Barbarians
Winlaton Warriors
North Midlands
Leeds Akkies A
Lincoln City Knights
Nottingham Outlaws 'A'
Parkside Hawks
Rotherham Giants
Scunthorpe Barbarians
Bury Titans
Colchester Romans
Northampton Casuals
Norwich City Saxons
St Ives Roosters
London & South
Guildford Giants
Greenwich Admirals
Oxford Cavaliers
Southampton Spitfires
Swindon St George
South West
Devon Sharks
East Devon Eagles
Exeter Centurions
Somerset Vikings
South Dorset Giants

  • NB: Bridlington Bulls failed to start the season in the Yorkshire Premier
  • Moorends & Thorne Marauders 'A' failed to start the season in the North Midlands Division to be replaced by Parkside Hawks
  • Farnborough Falcons were originally scheduled to play in the London & South division but withdrew to be replaced by Guildford Giants.
  • Kent Ravens failed to complete the season in the London & South division.
  • Redditch Ravens and Telford Raiders dropped out of the Midlands Premier Division during the season with Redditch joining the Midlands Merit League and Telford's results stood
  • Cambridge Eagles and Hainault Bulldogs 'A' failed to complete the season in the Eastern Division
  • Plymouth Titans failed to complete the season in the South West division, with the results standing
  • Hartlepool failed to complete the season in the North East division, with the results standing

Women's Rugby League Conference

In 2009 the following teams played in the Women's Rugby League Conference:

  • National Division: Bradford Thunderbirds, Copeland Wildcats, Coventry Bears, Nottingham Outlaws, Wakefield Panthers, West London Sharks
  • North West Division: Chorley Panthers, Halton, Hillside Hawks, Macclesfield, Warrington Wolves
  • Yorkshire Division: Bradford Dudley Hill, Brighouse, Keighley Cats, Leeds Akkies, Stanningley

Past winners

Rugby League Conference National

Harry Jepson Trophy

The Harry Jepson trophy was competed for by all the Conference sides up to 2004. From 2005, it has been competed for only by the RLC Premier divisions.

RLC Regional

The RLC Regional is open to English sides that are in the regional divisions rather than the Premier divisions. It was introduced in 2005.

Women's RLC National

  • 2009 Bradford Thunderbirds

Women's RLC Regional

  • 2009 Hillside Hawks


Beyond the Heartlands - The History of the Rugby League Conference Julian Harrison

See also

External links

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