Rugby Football League

Rugby Football League
Rugby Football League
Founded 1895
Formerly named Northern Rugby Football Union (Northern Union)
RLIF affiliation 1948
RLEF affiliation 2003 (Full member)[1]
Responsibility England
Headquarters Red Hall, Red Hall Lane, Leeds, England
Key people Richard Lewis (Chair)
Nigel Wood (Chief Executive)
Competitions Super League
Challenge Cup
Championship 1
Championship Cup
Rugby League Conference
As of 30 June 2009

The Rugby Football League (RFL) is the governing body for professional rugby league football in England.[2] 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 name Rugby Football League previously also referred to the main league competition run by the organisation. This has since been supplanted by Super League and the Rugby League National Leagues.

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, 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 RFL is part of the Community Board, which also has representatives from BARLA, Combined Services, English Schools Rugby League and Student Rugby League.



On 27 August 1895, as a result of an emergency meeting in Manchester, prominent Lancashire 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 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: Batley FC 1880, Bradford FC 1863, Brighouse Rovers FC 1878, Broughton Rangers FC 1877, Halifax FC 1873, Huddersfield FC 1864, Hull 1865, Hunslet FC 1883, Leeds FC 1864, Leigh FC 1878, Liversedge FC 1877, Manningham F.C. 1876, Oldham FC 1876, Rochdale Hornets FC 1871, Runcorn 1895, Stockport 1895, St Helens FC 1873, Tyldesley FC 1879, Wakefield Trinity FC 1873, Warrington FC 1876, Widnes FC 1875, Wigan FC 1872.

Former England rugby union captain, Richard Lockwood became chairman of the Rugby Football League in 1945.[3]

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. Maurice 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.[4]

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. [1] Within a year of joining the RFL, he oversaw reunification with BARLA after nearly 30 years of division.[5]

Then Widnes Vikings chairman Tony Chambers claimed that Lewis showed his strong expansionist credentials in 2005 when he allegedly threatened to resign if Super League clubs did not back a plan to save London Broncos (now Harlequins Rugby League), although he denies this.[6]

Under Lewis, plans for a Super League licensing system were introduced.

Following Nigel Wood's appointment as RFL Chief Executive in October 2007, Lewis's role increasingly focusses on developing rugby league in the UK and internationally.[7]


The RFL is based at Red Hall in Leeds. Before this, it was headquartered at 180 Chapeltown Road, Leeds.

The Board

The RFL board consists of five members:

  • Richard Lewis, the Executive Chairman of RFL. A former tennis player, coach and Director of Tennis.
  • Maurice Watkins, a sports lawyer from James Chapman & Co in Manchester. He is a director of Manchester United football club, a member of the FA Premier League Legal Working, a member of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber and a Regional Director of Coutts Bank. He is President of the British Association for Sport and Law.
  • Bob Stott, an experienced Director in industry currently on the board of Morrisons Plc.
  • Ian Edwards, a former Media Director at the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. He was a sports correspondent for ITN and Head of Sport at BBC Manchester from 1987 to 1989. He has rugby league experience at French club Carcassonne and rugby union caps for Welsh club Cardiff RFC.
  • Nigel Wood, finance director of RFL, a former accountant for the BBC and chief executive of Halifax RLFC.
  • Mark Wilding, has also recently been appointed as Chief Talent Scout for the RFL. Mark has previous experience in talent spotting was working on Supplier Management at DRL Limited.

Young People's Advisory Panel

The RFL launched the Young Peoples 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. [8][9]


The head of refereeing in the RFL is former referee Stuart Cummings. The RFL decided that from the 2007 there would be six full time referees - previously referees had been part time. The RFL still employs part time officials to supplement the full time referees in the Super League and to be touch/in-goal judges in the Super League. The National Leagues are still refereed by part-time referees. The full-time referees are:

  • Phil Bentham
  • Steve Ganson
  • Thierry Alibert
  • Richard Silverwood
  • Ian Smith
  • Ben Thaler
  • James Child

Past Presidents of the RFL

  • 1988 - 1989: L.J Bettinson, Salford
  • 1989 - 1990: S Ackroyd, Halifax
  • 1990 - 1991: Harry Jepson OBE, Leeds
  • 1991 - 1992: Maurice Lindsay, Wigan
  • 1992 - 1993: C.C Hutton, Hull Kingston Rovers
  • 1993 - 1994: R Waudby, Hull
  • 1994 - 1995: R Teeman, Bramley
  • 1995 - 1996: Kath Hetherington, Sheffield Eagles
  • 1997: W.J Mason, Hunslet
  • 1998 - 1999: T Smith, Widnes Vikings
  • 1999 - 2000: W Garrett, Warrington Wolves
  • 2000 - 2001: Ralph Calvin, Whitehaven[10]
  • 2001 - 2002: M White, Swinton Lions
  • 2002 - 2003: R Taylor, Rochdale Hornets
  • 2003 - 2004: T Fleet, Widnes Vikings
  • 2004 - 2005: Gary Hetherington, Leeds Rhinos
  • 2005 - 2006: P Hindle, Castleford Tigers
  • 2006 - 2007: S Wagner, Featherstone Rovers
  • 2007 - 2008: G Liles, Hunslet Hawks
  • 2008 - 2009: K Nicholas, Batley Bulldogs
  • 2009 - 2010: C Hamilton, Oldham


  1. ^ RLEF. "Overview". RLEF. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  2. ^ "RLIF Confederations". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "Charles Alexander Hooper". Clifton Rugby Football Club History. Clifton RFC. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "League's cease-fire is over as superpowers prepare for War". Dave Hadfield, The Independent. 1998-01-29. Retrieved 2007-08-30. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Multi-tasking Lewis a southerner happy to work at northern union", The Guardian, 1 June 2007
  6. ^ "Lewis denies quit claim over Broncos vote", The Guardian, 8 March 2005
  7. ^ "About the RFL", The Rugby Football League, 13 May 2008
  8. ^ "Midlands Rugby League". Midlands Rugby League. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  9. ^ "London Broncos Rugby League". 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  10. ^ Irving, A. "Ralph handles league's hot seats". News & Star, 01 March 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 

See also

External links

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