Rugby Football League

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Rugby Football League
Rugby Football League logo
Founded 29th August 1895
Formerly named Northern Rugby Football Union, Northern Rugby Football League
RLIF affiliation 1948
RLEF affiliation 2003 (Full member)[1]
Responsibility England England
Headquarters Leeds, England England
Key people Brian Barwick[2] (Chair)
Nigel Wood (Chief Executive)
Competitions Super League
League 1
Rugby League Conference
Challenge Cup
League 1 Cup
World Club Series
World Club Challenge
As of 30 June 2009

The Rugby Football League (RFL) is the governing body for professional rugby league in England.[3] The name Rugby Football League previously also referred to the main league competition run by the organisation. This has since been supplanted by Super League, the Championship and League 1.

Based at Red Hall in Leeds, it administers the England national rugby league team, the Challenge Cup, Super League and the Rugby League Championships. The social and junior game is administered in association with the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA). The Rugby Football League is a member of the Rugby League European Federation and as a senior Full Member has a combined veto power over the Council with France. The RFL is part of the Community Board, which also has representatives from BARLA, Combined Services, English Schools Rugby League and Student Rugby League.

Established as the Northern Rugby Football Union (often shortened to Northern Union) in August 1895 by representatives of twenty-one Rugby Football Union clubs at a meeting at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, it changed its name in 1922 to the Northern Rugby Football League,[4] mirroring its sister organisations overseas, the Australian Rugby Football League and New Zealand Rugby Football League. Eventually the "Northern" was dropped from its name at the beginning of the 1980s.

The turnover of the RFL was reported as £27 M in 2011.[5][6]


On Tuesday 27 August 1895, as a result of an emergency meeting in Manchester, prominent Lancashire rugby clubs Broughton Rangers, Leigh, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets, St Helens, Tyldesley, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan declared that they would support their Yorkshire colleagues in their proposal to form a Northern Union.

Two days later, on Thursday 29 August 1895, representatives of 21 clubs met in the George Hotel, Huddersfield to form the "Northern Rugby Football Union" (usually termed Northern Union or NU). Twenty clubs agreed to resign from the Rugby Football Union, but Dewsbury felt unable to comply with the decision. The Cheshire club, Stockport, had telegraphed the meeting requesting admission to the new organisation and was duly accepted with a second Cheshire club, Runcorn, admitted at the next meeting.

The 22 clubs and their years of foundation were:

RFL Founding Clubs
Colors Club Established City/Town
Batley colours.svg
Batley FC 1880 Batley, West Yorkshire
Bradford FC 1863 Bradford, West Yorkshire
Brighouse Rangers RFC 1873 Brighouse, West Yorkshire
Broughton Rangers FC 1877 Broughton, Lancashire
Halifax RLFC 1873 Halifax, West Yorkshire
Huddersfield FC 1864 Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Hull F.C. 1865 Hull, East Yorkshire
Hunslet FC 1883 Leeds, West Yorkshire
Leeds FC 1864 Leeds, West Yorkshire
Leigh colours.svg
Leigh FC 1878 Leigh, Lancashire
Liversedge RFC 1877 Liversedge, West Yorkshire
Manningham F.C. 1876 Bradford, West Yorkshire
Oldham FC 1876 Oldham, Lancashire
File:Rochdale colours.svg
Rochdale Hornets FC 1871 Rochdale, Lancashire
Runcorn RFC 1895 Runcorn, Cheshire
St Helens RFC 1873 St Helens, Lancashire
Stockport RFC 1895 Stockport, Cheshire
Tyldesley FC 1879 Tyldesley, Lancashire
Wakefield Trinity FC 1873 Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Warrington FC 1876 Warrington, Lancashire
File:Widnes colours.svg
Widnes FC 1875 Widnes, Lancashire
Wigan FC 1872 Wigan, Lancashire
File:NRFU Challenge Cup.jpg
The Northern Rugby Football Union Challenge Cup 1896

In 1908 the Northern Union's brand of rugby was taken up in Australia and New Zealand. The Union hosted touring sides from both countries before assembling a Great Britain representative team for a 1910 tour of Australia and New Zealand. These nations, particularly Australia, would go on to excel in the sport and gain significant influence over it over the following century.

The British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA) was created in 1973 in Huddersfield by a group of enthusiasts concerned about the dramatic disappearance of many amateur leagues and clubs. Fewer than 150 amateur teams remained with a mere 30 youth rugby league teams. The 'breakaway' from the RFL was acrimonious and was strongly contested, with a vote 29-1 against recognising BARLA. Thanks to Tom Mitchell, this changed to a unanimous vote of approval for BARLA within 12 months.

Maurice Lindsay became the Chief Executive of the RFL in 1992, proposing the Super League, which replaced Championship as the sport's premier league competition from 1996 onwards. Lindsay returned to Wigan in 1999 for his second stint at the club after Sir Rodney Walker, then chairman of the RFL, sacked him after a campaign to unseat him failed.[7]

The RFL accumulated losses of £1.9 million at the end of 2001, shortly before a major restructuring of the governing body and the appointment of Richard Lewis as executive chairman in May 2002.[8] Within a year of joining the RFL, he oversaw reunification with BARLA after nearly 30 years of division.[9] Lewis left in 2012 to become Chief Executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.[10] The RFL net value has been positive every year since 2004, being £1.7M in 2011.[5]

In 2011 a major change to the game was agreed, changing from a winter to a summer game, starting in 2012 with a playing season from March to November, aligning with the Super League, which has played this way since 1996. The regional leagues may include winter competitions in addition.[5]

In 2012, the Rugby Football League were awarded the Stonewall Sport Award in recognition of their work in embracing inclusivity and tackling homophobia.[11] They also became the first UK sporting organisation to make the top 100 employers in the Stonewall Index that measures attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.[12]


The RFL runs the top three divisions of rugby league in England and partly runs the National Conference League which is run by the BARLA. It also runs two domestic cups and organises the World Club Series against three British clubs and three other Australian clubs.

RFL Leagues
Name Tier Established Winners
Super League 1 1996
File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
Championship 2 2003
Leigh colours.svg Leigh Centurions
League 1 3 2003
Oldhamcolours.svg Oldham Roughyeds
National Conference League 4 1986
File:Australian colours.svg West Hull
RFL Domestic Cups
Name Established Winners
Challenge Cup 1890
File:Rhinoscolours.svg Leeds Rhinos
League 1 Cup 2015
NWCrucolours.png North Wales Crusaders
RFL International Cup
Name Established Winners
World Club Challenge 1976
South Sydney colours.svg South Sydney Rabbitohs
World Club Series 2015
Australia National Rugby League

English national team

Badge of England team
Governing body Rugby Football League
Region Europe
Head coach Steve McNamara
Captain Sean O'Loughlin
Most caps Kevin Sinfield (34)
Top try-scorer Ryan Hall (24)
Top point-scorer Kevin Sinfield (208)
RLIF ranking 3rd
First international
 England 9–3 Other Nationalities
(Wigan, England; 5 April 1904)
Biggest win
 United States 0–110 England 
(Orlando, Florida, USA; October 2000)
Biggest defeat
 Australia 52–4 England 
(Melbourne; 2 November 2008)
World Cup
Appearances 5 (first time in 1975)
Best result Runners-up, 1975; 1995

The England national rugby league team represent England in international rugby league football tournaments. The team has now seen a revival, having largely formed from the Great Britain team, who also represented Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The team is run under the auspices of the Rugby Football League. As of 2008, the team now participates in all World Cups, Four Nations, and Test matches.[13]

The team dates back to 1904 when they played against a mixture of Welsh and Scottish players in Wigan.[14] Since then, and right up until the 1950s, they regularly toured Australia and New Zealand and played both home and away matches against neighbours Wales and France. But when it was decided that Great Britain would tour the Southern Hemisphere instead of England, France and Wales became the only regular opponents. Even then though, there are some long periods where England barely played any matches. Their first appearance in the Rugby League World Cup was in 1975, and since then they have become runners-up in 1975 and 1995, the latter tournament being held in England. In 2008 they competed in the 2008 World Cup in Australia. For many years England also competed in the European Nations Cup and in 2006, an England 'A' team, competed for the Federation Shield. In the past England's main rivals have been Wales and France, with the rivalry stretching back to 1908 and 1934 respectively. However, England's main rivals would now be Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, France.

Traditionally a predominantly white kit is worn including white shorts and socks. However the shirt usually features some form of red, like red stripes, crosses or chevrons. These colours are similar to other English sporting teams and are the colours used on the national flag. In 2008 a new kit was introduced featuring a red cross on the front and red strips down the sides of the shirt, shorts and socks were white too with red strips.[15] Also in 2008 the Rugby Football League chose to abandon the traditional English lion on the badge in favour of a much simpler shield and cross design,[16] nevertheless the team will still be known as "The Lions".

Currently the team is ranked third in the world, behind Australia and New Zealand. Steve McNamara became head coach leaving Bradford to take the national job and Sean O'Loughlin is the current captain.

Great Britain national team

Great Britain
Crest of Great Britain team
Badge of Great Britain team
Nickname The Lions
Governing body Rugby Football League
Region Europe
Captain Jamie Peacock
Most caps Mick Sullivan (46)
Garry Schofield (46)
Top try-scorer Mick Sullivan (41)
Top point-scorer Neil Fox (228)
First international
 New Zealand 6–14 Great Britain 
(Headingley, Leeds, England, United Kingdom; 18 January 1908)
Biggest win
 Fiji 4–72 Great Britain 
(Suva, Fiji; October 1996)
Biggest defeat
 Australia 64–10 Great Britain 
(Sydney, Australia; July 2002)
World Cup
Appearances 9 (first time in 1954)
Best result Winners, 1954; 1960; 1972

The Great Britain national rugby league team represents Great Britain in rugby league football. Administered by the Rugby Football League (RFL), the team is nicknamed "The Lions" or "Great Britain Lions".

For most of the 20th century the Great Britain team was assembled to go on tours overseas, and to play against foreign touring teams, as well as competing in Rugby League World Cup tournaments. They were one of the strongest teams in rugby league, though usually playing second fiddle to Australia. They won the Rugby League World Cup on three occasions: 1954, 1960 and 1972.

Since 1995 the RFL have preferred to send the home nations as separate teams for World Cup purposes. Great Britain continued to compete as a test playing nation both home and away. They competed against Australia for the Ashes, and New Zealand for the Baskerville Shield, as well the Tri-Nations series with both Australia and New Zealand. Great Britain also played in series and tours against other nations such as France, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

In 2006, the RFL announced that after the 2007 All Golds Tour[17] the Great Britain team would no longer compete on a regular basis, and that players would be able to represent England, Wales and Scotland at Test level. It is planned that the Great Britain team will come together in future only for occasional tours, similar to the British and Irish Lions in rugby union.


Red Hall, RFL HQ

The RFL is based at Red Hall in Leeds, a Grade II listed brick building dating from 1642.[18][19] It moved there in 1995 from 180 Chapeltown Road, Leeds, where it had been since 1922.[19]

In 2015, some departments moved to Quay West in Trafford.[20]

The board

The RFL board consists of the following:[5][10]

Young People's Advisory Panel

The RFL launched the Young People's Advisory Panel in 2010, a group consisting of young people aged 16–25 from across England. The national panel meet at least three times a year at the RFL's Red Hall headquarters to discuss and debate the following:

  • Changes in the structure of youth rugby;
  • Communications between young rugby league enthusiasts and the RFL;
  • RFL policies which impact on young people.

Two nominated members will also sit on the youth & junior forum, a key device used to advance youth rugby league.[21][22]

Match officials

All Super League matches are governed by the laws set out by the RFL; these laws are enforced by match officials. Former Super League and International Referee Steve Ganson is the current Acting Head of the Match Officials Department and Technical Director. Former Hull player and Huddersfield Head Coach Jon Sharp was the previous Head of the Match Officials Department of the RFL. Sharp was sacked in July 2015 and took up the role of Head Coach at Featherstone Rovers. He assumed his role at the RFL following Stuart Cummings' departure in March 2013 having previously held the role of Match Officials Coach & Technical Director.

Coaching & performance staff

  • Steve Ganson – Acting Head of Match Officials & Technical Director
  • Ian Smith – Match Officials Coach
  • Dave Campbell - Match Officials Coach
  • Tony Brown - Match Officials Coach
  • Ray Tennant - Match Officials Coach

Full time match officials

Country Name Referee Touch Judge First Super League Game Date Venue
England Phil Bentham Wakefield Trinity v Hull 11 September 2005 Belle Vue
England James Child Wakefield Trinity v Catalans Dragons 15 March 2009 Belle Vue
England Joseph Cobb London Broncos v Wigan Warriors 5 July 2014 The Hive
England Robert Hicks Leeds v Crusaders RL 20 June 2010 Headingley
England Chris Kendall - v - --/--/-- -
England Richard Silverwood Halifax v Salford 6 May 2001 The Shay
England Ben Thaler London Broncos v Leigh 29 May 2005 Griffin Park

Cadet Match Officials

Cadets primarily referee in the Kingstone Press Championship and the Kingstone Press League 1 and Touch Judge in the First Utility Super League. There are opportunities for cadets to referee in the First Utility Super League when games become available.

England Sam Ansell
South Africa Jamie Bloem
England Chris Campbell
England Tom Crashley
England Adam Gill
England Tom Grant
England Gareth Hewer
England Chris Kendal
England Dave Merrick
England Scott Mikalauskas
England Jon Roberts
England George Stokes
England Andy Sweet
England Matthew Thomason
England Warren Turley
England Michael Woodhead

Past Presidents of the RFL

Entrance hall to the Headquarters building

See also


  1. RLEF. "Overview". RLEF. Retrieved 30 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "RFL appoints ex-FA boss Brian Barwick as chairman". BBC Sport. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "RLIF Confederations". Retrieved 27 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "The History Of Rugby League". Rugby League Information. Retrieved 2 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 2011 RFL Annual Report
  6. BBC Sport - Rugby Football League announces record turnover of £29m. (2012-07-18). Retrieved on 2013-08-20.
  7. "League's cease-fire is over as superpowers prepare for War". Dave Hadfield, The Independent. 29 January 1998. Retrieved 30 August 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  8. [1]
  9. "Multi-tasking Lewis a southerner happy to work at northern union". The Guardian. 1 June 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 The board of directors (retrieved 23 Dec 2012)
  11. [2]
  12. Wilson, Andy (12 January 2011). "RFL is named among top 100 employers in Stonewall Index". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The Rugby Football League – Brand England Launched Retrieved on 24 May 2008.
  14. RL1895 – The First International Retrieved on 6 June 2008.
  15. England Official Website – New Shirt Launched Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  16. England Official Website – New Logo Retrieved on 18 June 2008.
  17. Sporting Life
  18. British Listed Buildings
  19. 19.0 19.1 RFL: The History of Red Hall (Sep 2012)
  20. Place North West,
  21. "Midlands Rugby League". Midlands Rugby League. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "London Broncos Rugby League". 20 October 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Irving, A. "Ralph handles league's hot seats". News & Star, 01 March 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2011. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links