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Super League is the top-level professional rugby league football club competition of Europe. As a result of sponsorship from Engage Mutual Assurance the competition is currently officially known as the Engage Super League. The League features fourteen teams: twelve from England, one from Wales and one from France, which compete from February to October.

Super League began in March 1996 and saw the English season switch from winter to summer for the first time in over 100 years. Most of the teams are based in Great Britainmarker, though initially the league was intended to be European, and indeed Frenchmarker club Paris Saint Germain contested the first ever Super League match. Following their departure in 1997, the league was solely English until Catalans Dragons were admitted for the 2006 season. In 2009, the Celtic Crusaders, from Walesmarker, entered the competition.

During the league's regular season, each team plays 27 games over 27 rounds from February to September. These consist of 13 home games, 13 away games and a Magic Weekend game at a neutral venue, which this year was Murrayfield Stadiummarker in Edinburghmarker. At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams in the League play in the play-offs, which culminates with the Grand Final to determine the champions.

In 2009 for the first time in its history Super League games will be played in five different countries in a single season; Englandmarker, Walesmarker, Scotlandmarker, Francemarker and Spainmarker.

St Helens, Leeds and Bradford have been the three dominant teams in the Super League since its arrival in 1996. Each year the competition winners play a game against the premiers of the Australasian National Rugby League competition in the World Club Challenge.

Teams

The maps below indicate the locations of teams currently competing in Super League.



Super League (Europe)
Team Stadium Capacity City/Area Est. Current season
Bradford Bulls Odsal Stadiummarker 27,491 Bradfordmarker, West Yorkshire 1863 2009 team and results
Castleford Tigers The Junglemarker 11,750 Castlefordmarker, West Yorkshire 1926 2009 team and results
Catalans Dragons Stade Gilbert Brutusmarker 13,000 Perpignanmarker, Pyrénées-Orientales, Francemarker 1935 2009 team and results
Crusaders Rodney Parademarker 12,000 Newportmarker, Gwent, Walesmarker 2005 2009 team and results
Harlequins Twickenham Stoopmarker 12,700 Twickenhammarker, Londonmarker 1980 2009 team and results
Huddersfield Giants Galpharm Stadiummarker 24,500 Huddersfieldmarker, West Yorkshire 1864 2009 team and results
Hull FC Kingston Communications Stadiummarker 25,404 Hullmarker, East Riding of Yorkshire 1865 2009 team and results
Hull Kingston Rovers "New" Craven Parkmarker 10,000 Hullmarker, East Riding of Yorkshire 1882 2009 team and results
Leeds Rhinos Headingley Carnegie Stadiummarker 20,500 Leedsmarker, West Yorkshire 1864 2009 team and results
Salford City Reds The Willowsmarker 11,363 Salfordmarker, Greater Manchestermarker 1873 2009 team and results
St Helens The GPW Recruitment Stadiummarker 17,500 St Helens, Merseysidemarker 1873 2009 team and results
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats Belle Vuemarker 11,000 Wakefieldmarker, West Yorkshire 1873 2009 team and results
Warrington Wolves Halliwell Jones Stadiummarker 13,024 Warringtonmarker, Cheshiremarker 1879 2009 team and results
Wigan Warriors DW Stadiummarker 25,135 Wiganmarker, Greater Manchestermarker 1872 2009 team and results


History

The competition was first mooted during the Australian Super League war as a way for Rupert Murdoch to gain the upper hand during the battle for broadcasting supremacy with the Australian Rugby League. Murdoch also approached the British clubs to form Super League. A large sum of money aided the decision, and the competition got under way in 1996. Part of the deal saw rugby league switch from a winter to a summer season.

"Supporters will see a better game in better surroundings, and the deal will see their sport receive a greater profile nationally and internationally."

Rodney Walker, RFL chairman, welcomes Super League, 5 April 1995


Initially, several mergers between existing clubs were proposed:

They were to be included with the following stand-alone clubs: St Helens, Wigan, Leeds, Bradford Northern, Halifax, London, Paris and Toulouse.

this proved so unpopular that only existing clubs were selected for the competition. The clubs finishing below 10th in the existing top flight were excluded, which meant Hull, Wakefield Trinity and Widnes were left out, as were pioneering club Keighley Cougars who had just won the Second Division Championship. London Broncos, now known as Harlequins Rugby League, who had come fourth in the Second Division, were “fast-tracked” in on commercial grounds. A new team, Paris Saint Germain, was created to give a French dimension.

After two years Paris were dropped from the competition, thus the 'Europe' in 'Super League (Europe)', became somewhat otiose; it was however retained. Promotion and relegation between Super League and the Rugby League National Leagues was re-introduced, and in 2002 the SLE governing body re-integrated fully into the Rugby Football League. For most intents and purposes, Super League became a re-titled first division of British rugby league. However, in 2006, French side Catalans Dragons (also known as UTC or Les Catalans) from Perpignanmarker joined the league (giving more credence to the Super League (Europe) name). In order to facilitate this move, two clubs were relegated from Super League at the end of the 2005 season, Leigh who finished bottom of the league were replaced by the one club coming up from the National Leagues and Widnes who finished 11th (and would have stayed up any other year) were dropped for Les Catalans, thus the number of clubs in Super League remained at 12.

Licensing

Super League licences were announced in May 2005 by the Rugby Football League (RFL) as the new determinant of the Super League competition's participants from 2009 in place of promotion and relegation. The licences were awarded after consideration of more factors than just the on-the-field performance of a club. After 2007 automatic promotion and relegation was suspended for Super League with new teams admitted on a licence basis with the term of the licence to start in 2009.

The RFL stated that clubs applying to compete in Super League XIV in 2009 would be assessed by criteria in four areas (stadium facilities, finance and business performance, commercial and marketing and playing strength, including junior production and development) with the final evaluations and decisions being taken by the RFL Board of Directors.

Successful applicants would be licensed for three years of Super League competition. Three-yearly reviews of Super League membership will take place to ensure ambitious clubs lower down the leagues can still be successful.

Points attained by each club's application would be translated into a license grades A, B or C. Clubs who achieved an A or B Licence would be awarded a place in Super League, while those who achieve a C Licence will undergo further scrutiny before the RFL decide who makes the final cut.

In June 2008, the RFL confirmed that Super League would be expanded from 12 teams to 14 in 2009.

The RFL announced the 14 clubs to be licenced at 1000 BST on 22 July 2008. The teams announced were the 12 existing Super League teams; Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Catalans Dragons, Harlequins RL, Huddersfield Giants, Hull F.C., Hull Kingston Rovers, Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors along with National League 1 teams, Celtic Crusaders (meaning the league expands into Wales for the first time) and Salford City Reds. Celtic Crusaders become the only Super League franchise never to have played in the Super League previously.

Leigh Centurions, Widnes Vikings and Halifax had all played in Super League previously, but failed to attain a licence. Leigh and Widnes, especially, were disappointed with their exclusions with Leigh's chairman being extremely critical of the RFL.

The RFL released the grading of each of the 14 clubs on 23 July 2008.

A licence B licence C licence
Hull FC
Leeds Rhinos
Warrington Wolves
Bradford Bulls
St Helens
Wigan Warriors
Castleford Tigers
Catalans Dragons
Celtic Crusaders
Harlequins
Hull KR
Huddersfield Giants
Salford City Reds
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats


Season structure

From 2009, 14 teams compete in Super League. They play each other twice on a home-and-away basis, interrupted by the Magic Weekend round. Prior to the expansion from 12 teams, an additional four fixtures were played (prior to the introduction of Millennium Magic in 2007, an additional six fixtures were added). After the 27 rounds, a play-off structure is used to determine the two teams who will meet in the Super League Grand Final to decide the championship. The Super League play-offs are now competed by the eight sides finishing highest. The structure is designed to reward the teams finishing nearer the top. From 2009, the winning team from Week One with the highest League placing will be allowed to select their next opponents in Week Three. The Grand Final is played at Old Traffordmarker.

The current Super League Play-off structure:

Week One
  • Qualifying Play Off 1: 1st vs 4th (winner receives a bye to week three)
  • Qualifying Play Off 2: 2nd vs 3rd (winner receives a bye to week three)


  • Elimination Play Off 1: 5th vs 8th (loser goes out)
  • Elimination Play Off 2: 6th vs 7th (loser goes out)


Week Two
  • Preliminary Semi Final 1: QPO 1 Loser vs EPO 1 Winner
  • Preliminary Semi Final 2: QPO 2 Loser vs EPO 2 Winner


Week Three
  • Qualifying Semi Final 1: QPO 1 Winner vs PSF 1 Winner *
  • Qualifying Semi Final 2: QPO 2 Winner vs PSF 2 Winner *


Week Four
  • Grand Final: QSF1 Winner vs QSF2 Winner


* subject to choice of highest placed winner in week one

Championships

See Rugby Football League Championship for full list of championship winners (1895-date).


Champions




Year Grand Final Winners Score Grand Final Runners-up League Leaders
1996 N/A N/A N/A St Helens
1997 N/A N/A N/A Bradford Bulls
1998 Wigan Warriors 10–4 Leeds Rhinos Wigan Warriors
1999 St Helens 8–6 Bradford Bulls Bradford Bulls
2000 St Helens 29–16 Wigan Warriors Wigan Warriors
2001 Bradford Bulls 37–6 Wigan Warriors Bradford Bulls
2002 St Helens 19–18 Bradford Bulls St Helens
2003 Bradford Bulls 25–12 Wigan Warriors Bradford Bulls
2004 Leeds Rhinos 16–8 Bradford Bulls Leeds Rhinos
2005 Bradford Bulls 15–6 Leeds Rhinos St Helens
2006 St Helens 26–4 Hull FC St Helens
2007 Leeds Rhinos 33–6 St Helens St Helens
2008 Leeds Rhinos 24–16 St Helens St Helens
2009 Leeds Rhinos 18–10 St Helens Leeds Rhinos


Trophies and awards

The League Leader's Shield is a trophy awarded to the team finishing the season top of Super League which is also known as a minor premiership. League Leader's Shield was introduced only in 2003, previously no prize was awarded to the team finishing top following the introduction of the Super League Grand Final.

Each season a Super League Dream Team is also named. The best thirteen players in their respective positions are voted for by members of the sports press.

The Man of Steel Award is an annual award for the best player of the season in Super League. It has continued from pre-Super League times, with the first such award given in 1977.

The winner of the Grand Final is given the Super League Trophy as Super League Champions. This is considered more prestigious than a minor premiership. Each year, the year of a champion team's triumph, team name and team captain are engraved.

Media

Television

Sky Sports have been the primary broadcast partner of Super League since its inaugural season in 1996. Sky Sports continue to have the rights to show live Super League games in the United Kingdom; two live matches are broadcast each week - one on Friday Night at 7:30pm and another at 6pm on Saturdays. Regular commentators are Eddie Hemmings and Mike Stephenson with summarisers including Phil Clarke, Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor. Live Super League broadcasts regularly rank amongst the top 10 most watched programmes in a week on Sky Sports with in excess of 250,000 viewers. Match highlights are shown on Boots N' All which is shown on Sky Sports and is rebroadcast on the Internet.

BBC Sport broadcast a highlights programme called the Super League Show, usually presented by Harry Gration. The BBC have elected to broadcast this only to the North West, Yorkshire & North Midlands, North East & Cumbria, and East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire regions on a Sunday. A national repeat has been broadcast overnight during the week since February 2008, the BBC Director of Sport, Richard Moseley, commented that this move was in response to the growing popularity and awareness of the sport, and the large number of requests from people who want to want to watch it elsewhere in the UK. End of season play-offs are shown across the whole country in a highlights package. Super League Show is available for streaming or downloaded using the BBC iPlayer in the UK.

Orange Sport TV in France shows every Catalans Dragons home match live and also some other matches which are broadcast in the UK live on Sky.

Internationally Super League is shown live on Showtime Sports (Middle East), Sky Sport (New Zealand), NTV+ (Russia), Sportklub (Eastern Europe) and Setanta Sports (USA and Canada) show Super League matches live or delayed each week. From this season, the Nine Network in Australia will show up to 70 live games. Previously, FOX Sports in Australia had shown the previous weekend's UK televised matches on Thursday nights.

Radio

Super League XIV is covered extensively by BBC Local Radio:
  • BBC Radio Manchester cover Wigan, Salford and Warrington.
  • BBC Radio Humberside cover Hull KR and Hull FC.
  • BBC Radio Leeds cover Bradford, Leeds, Castleford, Wakefield and Huddersfield.
  • BBC Radio Merseyside (AM/DAB only) cover St Helens and Warrington.
  • BBC Radio London covers Harlequins.


The competition is also covered on commercial radio coverage:

  • BCB 106.6 (Bradford Community Broadcasting) cover Bradford Bulls home and away.
  • Radio Aire cover Leeds Rhinos.
  • KCFM Hull cover Hull KR and Hull.
  • Radio Marseillette covers every Catalans Dragons Home Match (in French).
  • Radio France Bleu Roussillon covers every Catalans Dragons Away Match (in French).
  • Yorkshire Radio cover all Yorkshire clubs and have one commentary per round which is not covered by either BBC or SKY.


All Super League commentaries on any station are available via the particular stations on-line streaming.

Internet

ESPN360 has had worldwide broadband rights since 2007 when they broadcast the 2007 Grand Final.

Since 9 April 2009, all of the matches shown on Sky Sports have also been available live on-line via Livestation everywhere in the world excluding the US, Puerto Rico, UK, Ireland, France, Monaco, Australia and New Zealand. List of Super League games available on Livestation.com

In the United Kingdom, BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Wales and Radio Warrington cover Harlequins, Celtic Crusaders (home games) and Warrington (home games) respectively.

Teams that have played in Super League



Venues

As Super League has looked to expand out of its traditional areas at one time or another matches have been played in several venues across the country, the current example is the Millennium Magic weekend currently held in Edinburghmarker (previously held in Cardiffmarker). In addition to the Magic Weekend other venues have hosted one-off games moving including this seasons match between Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves held in Barcelonamarker, Spainmarker.

Reserve Team Championship

The reserve team championship consists of the reserve teams of the thirteen British Super League teams and was founded in 2006 as a replacement for the Senior Academy.

Academy

The Academy features the Under 18 teams of the twelve English based Super League clubs and of Championship club Widnes Vikings. Catalans Dragons run their Academy team in the French Academy. Celtic Crusaders currently run their Under 18s in the National Youth League, a competition they won in the 2008-09 season, but it is planned for them to join the main Academy division.

See also



References

Inline

General



External links




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