sport

New era for top flight clubs

Top level rugby league in England enters a new era in 2015 when relegation and promotion becomes a regular part of Super League once again.

From next season, rugby league chiefs have decided to implement a new structure by introducing three divisions incorporating 38 clubs.

At the end of the 2014 Super League campaign, the leading 12 will remain in the top flight while the bottom two - Bradford Bulls and London Broncos - will join up with the leading 10 teams in the Kingstone Press Championship.

Level three (to be called Kingstone Press League 1) will comprise of 14 teams.

In the 2015 First Utility Super League, all 12 clubs will face each other home and away, as well as the traditional round of Magic Weekend fixtures that will take the total number of ties that each team play to 23.

At this point, the top eight teams in Super League will break away and face each other one more time each in what will be called The Super 8s.

Clubs will carry forward the points they accumulate in the regular season of 23 matches, by adding those they earn in the final seven.

After a total of 30 games, the top four qualify for the semi-final play-offs where the top two will enjoy home-field advantage. As is usual, the winners of the semi-final ties will contest the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Outside of the top eight clubs, the subsequent eight (the bottom four clubs in Super League and top-four Championship clubs) have their own end of season event - called The Qualifiers - from which the top three secure top flight status for 2016.

Those teams that finish the end-of-season Qualifiers in fourth and fifth spot, meet in a one-off match to decide who becomes the lucky 12th for the following season's Super League campaign. The team which finishes higher in The Qualifiers table will enjoy home advantage.

This match will be billed as rugby league's version of football's multi-million pound Championship play-off at Wembley.

Elsewhere, next year's Challenge Cup is also undergoing a facelift, with the top eight teams being exempt until round six - which will feature 16 clubs in all.

RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: \"The changes will ensure that every minute of every match in every competition matters and are being implemented following the most comprehensive consultation process in the sport's history.

\"The return of promotion and relegation in a format that is financially sustainable for all clubs should ensure fans are entertained from February to October, with an exciting season punctuated by a series of world-class events commencing with the World Club Challenge and finishing at Old Trafford with the Super League Grand Final.\"