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New RFU Championship structure for 2012-13

21 May 2012

  • Revised structure for RFU Championship to begin next season
  • Promotion play-offs to involve top four teams
Sky Sports HD will be broadcasting three RFU Championship fixtures over the next four weeks

Photo: RFU Archive

Following a period of consultation between the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Championship Clubs Committee, both parties are pleased to announce a new RFU Championship structure for next season.

Now in its third year, the RFU Championship currently adopts a two stage structure with a 22-round league season, followed by promotion and relegation play-offs.

The 2009-10 season saw Exeter Chiefs lift the inaugural trophy after topping their play-off group and winning the two-legged final. Worcester Warriors enjoyed the same success last season, beating Cornish Pirates to return to the Aviva Premiership.

The agreed structure is designed to deliver optimum home games while continuing to provide an exciting season climax for Championship supporters.

The revised structure, which has been approved by the RFU Board, sees the 12 clubs compete in a league season across 22 rounds, with the bottom club relegated to SSE National League 1 and the top four clubs going on to compete in a two-legged semi-final and final. The winners of the semi-finals will go on to play in the RFU Championship final – also two legs.

The new structure will provide 11 home games for the Championship clubs and a minimum of six games in the revised British & Irish Cup.

The cross border competition will now run across nine weeks with six pool rounds, concluded by three weeks of knock-out stages (quarter-final, semi-final and final).

Reward clubs who best perform across the season

Cornish Pirates No.9 Gavin Cattle in action during the 2011 RFU Championship Final against Worcester Warriors

Photo: Getty Images

Rob Andrew, Professional Rugby Director of the RFU, said:“Following consultation with the Championship Clubs Committee, we have come to a revised structure that meets with the approval of the clubs and the RFU Board.

“The reduction from an eight team promotion play-off to four will ultimately reward those clubs who best perform across the season, whilst encouraging a hugely competitive league to reach the top four.

“The amended structure also shows a further commitment to the British & Irish Cup which will include six pool matches played on a similar format to ERC competitions.

“The structure of the Championship has always been determined with the club’s input and agreement and this continues to be the case as we revise the competition for next season.  I would personally like to thank all the Championship clubs for their input into the new structure.”

Geoff Irvine, Chairman of the Championship Clubs, said: "The clubs believe these changes will improve the competition, providing quality rather than quantity of fixtures. It should also help with congestion of fixtures which results in player welfare issues.

“The clubs are excited by the changes in the British & Irish Cup and believe that removing the playoff pools in the Championship will enable them to compete more vigorously in the Cup.”

RFU Championship structure 2012-13

  • Stage 1 to 22 weeks
  • Bottom team at the end of Stage 1 relegated to SSE National League One
  • Stage 2 semi finals of two weeks for top four teams
  • Semi finals played over two legs
  • Final staged over two legs

British & Irish Cup structure 2012-13

  • Played over 9 weekends
  • Six pool rounds over 6 weeks
  • All fixtures played on weekends
  • Quarter finals staged over one leg
  • Semi final staged over one leg
  • Final staged over one leg

*Subject to fulfilling the Minimum Standards Criteria (MSC). The MSC is set out by the Professional Game Board.